Consulate Takes a Healthy Approach to Wireless

By Samuel Greengard

Hospitals and health-care providers find themselves facing growing challenges surrounding patient care and providing critical IT services to doctors and other medical professionals. At Consulate Health Care, which operates more than 200 care centers across 21 states, wireless network infrastructure wasn’t keeping up and performance was too often falling down. “We recognized that we were approaching a huge shift in long-term care and we needed to be more interoperable with other providers while improving delivery internally,” says Mark Crandall, CIO for the Maitland, Fla., firm.

As the sixth largest provider of senior health-care services in the nation and the largest provider in Florida, that wasn’t good enough. “We knew it was important to do more than merely ‘keep the lights on,’ ” Crandall says. Consulate required a network that could deliver bedside functionality, support electronic health records, and scale for changing needs. At the same time, the firm required strong security for thousands of company-issued devices, as well as BYOD support for patients and guests connecting to the network via Wi-Fi. “We had to have a simple but secure environment that is extremely stable,” says Crandall.

Time to Rebuild

Consulate turned to Aruba Networks to rebuild the wireless infrastructure and install access points that will total more than 2,700 when the project is complete. The organization began changing out the access points at various facilities in November 2013—it currently has about 2,100 in place—and it expects to complete the switchover in the first quarter of 2015. In some cases, the project has required other infrastructure improvements. “This approach was appealing because it allowed us to maintain the policies we had already established and retain many best practices,” Crandall explains. “It is easy to onboard devices quickly and securely and handle the visitor management component through a dual network.”

The Aruba ClearPass technology also allows the facilities to introduce more advanced telemedicine solutions, better bedside services, and various patient services, including CareTouch screens across some of its centers. It enables communication and interaction with patients through a variety of devices and approaches. In addition, the technology allows the health-care organization to manage, update, secure and troubleshoot the network in a more straightforward and cost-effective way. Finally, Crandall points out, the network handles authentication by handshaking with policy management data and it detects the health and state of devices on the network. “It allows us to act in a more proactive way,” he says. “It gives us more oversight of rules and processes.”

Crandall believes that the platform will provide the agility and flexibility the organization requires moving forward. Further out, it could help support asset management and other advanced capabilities. For now, it’s allowing Consulate Health Care to embrace a more digital-centric future and deliver medical care and associated services in a far more efficient, secure and streamlined way. “The ability to share data easily and securely—from acute and post-acute environments to home health—is essential,” says Crandall. “We want to ensure that we have the best data possible at the point of care.”

About the Author

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight article, Improving Your Network’s Resiliency,” click here.

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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