Ottawa Hospital Builds an IT Foundation for the Future

No field has endured the hot breath of technological change more than health care. At Ottawa Hospital in Ontario, Canada, CIO Dale Potter has made it a point to transform a risk into an opportunity. The teaching facility, with approximately 12,000 employees, 1,270 attending physicians and 3,600 residents, handles more than 150,000 patient visits a year. “Technology is the foundation for everything we do,” he says.

The hospital, which is already 100 percent virtualized on HP and IBM blade servers, has an 802.11n wireless infrastructure in place across its 12-million-square-foot campus. Physicians and other health professionals use computer carts and tablets (the hospital has deployed more than 3,000 iPads) to handle an array of tasks, including accessing electronic medical records (EMR) and handling physician order entry (POE). These tools allow a doctor to review a record, view radiological images and test results, and place an order at the point of patient contact.

The facility has also turned to IBM Cognos business intelligence and analytics to sort through mountains of scientific and performance data. And it uses a sophisticated picture archiving and communication system (PACS) to store images and data and provide remote access. The entire platform runs on a Health care Information Access Layer (HIAL), which integrates various systems.

In recent months, Potter has noticed several trends that are already influencing his decisions about how to build and manage IT assets. For the first time, demand for PCs has dropped. “We now have a pallet of brand new PCs gathering dust,” he admits. “An entirely different work model is emerging as physicians and other professionals turn to mobile tools.”

The wireless infrastructure–powered by Aruba Networks–is quickly becoming the backbone of hospital operations. In turn, it is enabling an array of advanced capabilities, including equipment tracking, RFID badges for doctors and staff, and RFID wristbands for patients.

All of this is only a start. Potter is eyeing location services to manage on-call physicians in the field as well as staff inside the facility. The system would automatically seek out the person available and best equipped to tend to a patient. He’s also looking at expanding the use of the PACS system to the mobile environment and deploying speech recognition to reduce note taking for professionals on the go. Finally, there’s a growing focus on using social networking and collaboration tools internally and tying various systems together with a cloud infrastructure.

Potter expects the future of the hospital and health care to look very different. Already, he has refocused IT efforts from general network and infrastructure issues to mobile app development. The hospital now has 70 IOS developers and the number continues to grow. Concludes Potter: “We recognize that we are entering a new era of IT. The goal is to put data to the point of action.”

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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