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Case Study

Nebraska Methodist Health System Deploys 7SIGNAL To Optimize Wireless Experience On Clinical Workstations


The Problem

Methodist Health System comprises three community hospitals and the highly acclaimed Methodist Women’s Hospital which specializes in women’s health, 30+ physician’s clinics, a medical supplies warehouse and a laundry. They even have Nebraska Methodist College with 1,200 students from which around 65% of graduates join the Methodist nursing and support staff ranks each year.

Doctors and nurses are on the move all day, and they must stay connected at all times. Often with 4 or 5 connected devices in the same spot. With about 2,000 laptops and workstation-on-wheels (WoWs) roaming the wards, almost 1,000 medical staff counting on Cisco wireless phones and Vocera hands-free voice communication badges, and an array of remote scanners and printers, Wi-Fi downtime or instability is simply not an option.

When users complained about dead spots or other connectivity issues, support often struggled to get sufficient details to work on, because healthcare professionals have other priorities – like tending to patients! Consequently, many problems took too long to fix, or never got fixed at all.

They had already deployed a high-availability network core and various mechanisms for WLAN controller failover to ensure that access points rarely go offline, even if the network is degraded, not even during routine maintenance. But they needed more visibility and control of Wi-Fi quality than they could get from Cisco’s standard Wi-Fi management tools.

Then something changed. In 2018 Methodist Health System acquired a new hospital (formerly Fremont Health) and with it, the network team inherited a Wi- Fi solution from Aruba which they were not familiar with. It was too new to retire, so they had to keep it.

Support was already stretched thin and troubleshooting was not getting any easier as the number of connected devices grew. Tim Bertino, Senior Systems Architect was rightfully worried that supporting two Wi-Fi vendors would dilute support and complicate troubleshooting. Was this the moment to step up from reactive support, to proactive Wi-Fi assurance?

If so, they would need a Wi-Fi monitoring platform.


The Solution

Wi-Fi troubleshooting in a hospital is notoriously hard, not just due to the hostile electromagnetic environment, but also because clinical staff-members don’t have the time to hand-hold support through all the questions they have. Needing to contact the user multiple times to solve a problem, simply doesn’t fly in healthcare!

“We needed a system that can tell us everything a user could, and more, but without needing to ask them, or take up any of their time,” said Bertino. Then he discovered 7SIGNAL’s holistic Wi-Fi Experience platform. “This was perfect,” he recalls. “Just by installing a 7SIGNAL agent on a device we got detailed visibility of the actual user experience on that endpoint.”

The health system first implemented 7SIGNAL in the newly acquired Fremont hospital. Darkness turned to light. Finally, they could see the Wi-Fi experience at any location from the user perspective, on their most important devices like WOWs, laptops and barcode scanners.

With hordes of mobile devices streaming Wi-Fi performance data back to the cloud from wherever they roam, Methodist now has the visibility to proactively detect and investigate problems before they impact users.

“We needed a system that can tell us everything a user could, without needing to ask them. 7SIGNAL provides that and more.”
Tim Bertino
Senior Systems Architect

The Results

“7SIGNAL has helped Methodist to detect roaming and slow driver issues, coverage gaps and network issues more quickly than ever,” Bertino added. 7SIGNAL was also utilized to great effect in the Wi-Fi assessment at the medical supply warehouse, to help evaluate and compare the performance of new barcode scanners.

The network operations team really likes how quickly and confidently it helps them to isolate probable cause. Wi-Fi problems tend to fall into one of three categories: network issues (quite rare, but most often where the finger is pointed), interference issues (common and hard to diagnose), device and driver issues (most common and also hardest to diagnose).

“7SIGNAL is a game changer for support,” said Bertino. “Now, when someone reports an issue, Support only has a few questions, before they can go back to their day, knowing that we’re on it!”

Since issues often originate with device drivers, Tim also recognizes how with a bit of training, they could spread the load between support teams, so Wi-Fi support doesn’t always fall on network operations.

Patient safety obviously comes first at Methodist Health System. But their satisfaction and comfort as a patient, comes a close second. So, network operations are equally committed to giving patients a flawless Wi-Fi experience, too.

“We needed a system that can tell us everything a user could, without needing to ask them. 7SIGNAL provides that and more.”
Tim Bertino
Senior Systems Architect