Just the right prescription: wireless phones are an integral part of hospital's all-digital network.
In keeping with its goals for an entirely digital system, the hospital's development team specified a digital telecommunications system before the institution opened in 2003. According to CIO Michael Knocke, objectives included having a reliable and durable digital telecommunications system with open standards that would allow integration and convergence with its data network, and one that would allow growth and migration to new technologies and capabilities.
To meet its objectives, the hospital turned to Great Plains Communications of Wichita, one of the areas providers of communications solutions for the medical industry. Great Plains recommended a Toshiba Strata CTX670 business-communications system with Toshiba Stratagy IES 12-port voice mail, and unified messaging.
The system also includes Toshiba digital desktop telephones, plus 24 SpectraLink wireless telephones, which were programmed to extend the features and capabilities of the users' desktop telephones to anywhere they roam at the 22-bed hospital. Other wireless technologies, such as cellular, could not be used due to the interference with sensitive medical equipment.
"Being able to be mobile, yet still receive all our telephone calls, has greatly improved our efficiency and productivity," says Darryl Thornton, COO of the hospital. "Toshiba's SpectraLink solution was the only one we found that would extend our desktop telephones to the palms of our hands."
The system also accommodates the hospital's remote users. "The system is so flexible that we were able to connect our remote users and still have it look like they are located at our corporate offices," Thornton explains. "Both incoming and outgoing calls are routed via the remote users' extensions through our main system at the hospital, so it's totally transparent that they aren't here at the hospital."
The hospital also had unique requirements for the Strata CTX670, including paging that could be restricted by area and the ability to restrict long distance on specific telephones, such as those in the lobby and in patient rooms, which required special programming.
To deliver the hospital's integrated voice and data communication, Great Plains partnered with TelCove, a provider of business-critical telecommunications services to enterprise customers and carriers, and NetVision Technologies, a provider of data networking services and technology consulting, all with offices in Wichita. TelCove delivered the external network, while NetVision handled the internal network.
TelCove installed a fiber connection at the hospital connecting it to TelCove's synchronous fiber-optic network (SONET), to provide both local network services and long distance. The SONET topography design enables all elements on the SONET ring to continuously communicate with each other, with information being routed in both directions, so if an element is inactive for any reason, the network stays active.
At the hospital, the optical network terminates the voice services on ISDN, using a primary rate interface (PRI) that runs through the Toshiba switch via PRI cards. The system also delivers a full T-1 of Internet service.
Reliability of the optical network-a high priority for the hospital--was tested when a tornado destroyed two miles of the network cabling. Despite the damage, the network did not experience any downtime.
NetVision installed the hospital's internal voice and data network, including setting up the wireless local area network, multitiered security and a high-capacity, fully gigabit infrastructure.
"The key to the success of both the data networking and voice applications is having a wireless network that is free of interference and fully compatible with both applications," says Brent Burdick, NetVision president.
NetVision was heavily involved in the overall design of the network, from placements of cabling and wireless access points to infrastructure issues such as heating and cooling. Planning the system before the hospital was built was a critical element to the system's deployment, Thornton says, as was having a battery backup in place as the system was deployed.
Of the hospital's new wireless telephones, Knocke says, "The ability to be mobile and receive your telephone calls at the same time is one of the biggest benefits I've ever seen in a hospital telephone system. Our telephones have given us a huge advantage in communicating with patients, families, doctors, other medical facilities and each other.
"Being an open system, this system will let us add voice over IP or other capabilities as our needs change and as we grow," adds Knocke.
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Michael Knocke, CIO of Kansas Spine Hospital, uses an integrated, wireless telephone in the hospital's pre-op area.