Schlegel Villages Puts Wireless to WorkBy Samuel Greengard | Posted 09-13-2017
The ability to connect devices anywhere and at any time has changed businesses in profound ways. It has created new opportunities to act and interact with employees and customers on a scale that would have once been unimaginable.
One company that's taking this concept to heart is Schlegel Villages, a long-term retirement home provider that operates 19 facilities in the Canadian province of Ontario. "Wireless technology has become a crucial part of the way we operate," says Chris Carde, director of information technologies.
Although Schlegel Villages deployed WiFi years ago, the changing nature of patient care—including the need for a more technology-centric approach—forced executives to rethink and reexamine the wireless infrastructure they had in place. At the center of the challenge was a roll out of new clinical software for managing personal health records on mobile devices, including iPads and iPad minis.
The wireless infrastructure had to work at the large facilities. "We required seamless connectivity," Carde explains.
Schlegel Villages turned to Aruba and CDW Canada to deliver the required infrastructure, including a Gigabit wireless network with Aruba 7200 Series controllers and more than 1,400 Aruba 310 Series access points. It began installing the WiFi network, which uses 802.11ac Wave 2 protocol, in December 2016 and went live with the network the following summer.
"We set up multiple SSIDs [service set identifiers] for different user groups and purposes," Carde says. This includes dedicated network nodes for workers and residents, as well as nurses, who rely on WiFi phones to speak with other nurses.
A Seamless Networking Experience
The performance improvements have been enormous. The Aruba network runs on the 5.0 Gigahertz frequency, which reduces interference problems and delivers better range, including for the WiFi phones. Users are able to roam the facilities without any glitches or interruptions in service. "It is a seamless experience," Carde says.
The network also provides better encryption, more robust access point controls, and a rich interface for managing the network and handling provisioning and deprovisioning tasks. More than 4,800 employees use the network, along with patients and guests.
"In the past, if an access point was down or we had questions about it, the only way we would know was when someone would say they couldn't connect to it," Carde recalls. "Now, we can monitor status from a central dashboard and make necessary changes."
The controller also delivers more granular controls and improved automation. That helps trim staff time while reducing costs. "In the past, we had to have people drive out to sites to fix problems," he adds, "and that could take several hours. We no longer have to spend an entire day to reboot an access point."
Schlegel Villages is now deploying about 600 iPads and iPad minis so that doctors, nurses and others can use them for patient charting, snapping photos for documentation and other tasks. They can roam buildings without having to find a stationary computer or a nursing station.
The company also has upgraded its wireless capabilities for patients and visitors. GPS locator technology embedded in the network may soon be used with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons or RFID to track equipment and patients.
"We now have robust and secure 24x7 connectivity," Carde reports.