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Part II: Blueprint for Success

April 22, 2010
by Kate Huvane Gamble
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More than just bricks and mortar, hospital construction requires intense collaboration among leadership, every step of the way

For successful hospital-based organizations, the days of IT and facility planning existing in silos are long-gone. As health systems expand by building new facilities, constructing new wings and taking over other hospitals, forward-thinking leaders are finding that involving multiple departments, from start to finish, is the key to thriving.

Healthcare Informatics spoke to leaders from four organizations that have recently expanded, and found that implementing cutting-edge technologies, improving workflow, and creating a more patient-friendly environment were common goals. And in all four cases, the facility and IT departments worked in close collaboration (along with biomed) throughout the process, in order to ensure success.

El Camino Hospital: Getting practical on infrastructure issues

In with the old and in with the new - how one organization built a new facility and reopened another within months.

Greg walton
Greg Walton

El Camino Hospital had a busy year in 2009. The organization, which serves California's Silicon Valley, reopened its 143-bed Los Gatos facility in July, and unveiled its 399-bed, state-of-the-art Mountain View campus in November. For CIO Greg Walton, who came on board two years ago during the midst of the planning, the experience has been interesting. “There is quite a contrast in what it's like to participate in a design versus a move-in to a facility that's already constructed,” he recalls.

First on the docket was the Los Gatos campus, which El Camino acquired, renovated and reopened in about 90 days. “We didn't want the community to go without care very long, and we felt it would be detrimental if it dragged out,” says Walton.

The organization moved quickly by extending its existing computer systems to the new facility. However, because the prior owner hadn't invested much in the network infrastructure, Walton and his colleagues had to replace most of the cabling and install an upgraded network. In addition, El Camino lent several staff members to help train and support workers in the new facility.

Walton's team also purchased new networking cabinetry, switches and routers; replaced numerous devices, including desktops; and installed a wireless network that runs on access points. While he may not have planned to buy new devices, Walton believes the investment was necessary, particularly since much of the equipment wasn't able to support El Camino's applications. “If you're not staying current with the technology out there, you're living with equipment that isn't portable to other situations,” he says, “and it basically becomes a boat anchor.”

While overseeing the Los Gatos overhaul, Walton was also putting in time at the Mountain View campus, where he provided input on design as well as on IT acquisitions. His first priority was to install a distributed antenna system and a medical-grade network that would support extensive use of wireless technology throughout the facility.

In mapping out a wireless strategy, however, it was vital that Walton and his team consider the how design principles such as maximum use of natural light and larger rooms might affect IT implementation. “I had to think about the fact that it's a bigger building, which meant a higher demand for wireless,” says Walton, along with the fact that the use of glass as a building material might restrict radio frequency. “You have to think about these things.”

Another area of concern in new construction is power and cooling, he adds, noting that it's common for hospitals to underestimate the levels of electricity and environmental control required to support wireless technology.

Finally, organizations like El Camino need to anticipate data growth. “We have 238 applications here, almost one for every two beds,” notes Walton. “And that number is growing as people figure out more and more ways to automate different aspects of healthcare. We're always putting more on the system.”

Dublin Methodist Hospital: a focus on paperlessness

From the nursing station to admissions, IT plans can play a significant role in a hospital's design.

Cheryl herbert
Cheryl Herbert

After years of planning, Dublin (Ohio) Methodist Hospital - part of the eight-hospital OhioHealth system - opened its doors in January of 2008. Spearheading the design, construction and opening efforts was Cheryl Herbert, R.N., the hospital's president. Herbert had participated in significant renovation projects in the past, but this was her first opportunity to build a facility from the ground up. And although it was hard work, she says being able to “start in a greenfield location with something that's never existed before” was a “unique and awesome experience.”

In designing the new Dublin, a 94-bed facility that can expand to 300 beds, the leadership team's top priority was to create an infrastructure that could support wireless technologies and enable the organization to be as paperless as possible. It meant mapping out everything from how many wireless access points were needed to which applications would be used to support patient care. “That was one of our guiding principles,” adds Herbert. “And on the facility design side, knowing that really allowed us to do some different things.”