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Digital Transformation in Health Care Facilities: An ICT Infrastructure Guide

April 01, 2021

From advanced, at-home, telemedicine to remote field facilities and wearable devices that track medical information for those on the go, health care IT professionals are racing to keep up with an Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) that are rapidly expanding patient care and access. Likewise, evolving regulations over patient medical records, billing, and advanced care techniques that require a high degree of complex, networked machinery for remote surgical procedures are all driving health care providers to reconceptualize how they reliably deliver the technology needed to support today’s requirements, while planning for future demands.
 
Diagnosing the challenges of bandwidth, privacy, and security that come with this proliferation is not easy. While treating and protecting patients with the latest life-saving technologies is the top objective, delivering and supporting real-time, 24/7 connectivity is equally important. 
 
Throughout its 30-year history of powering and protecting technology investments, Chatsworth Products (CPI) has provided countless hospital systems, health care facilities and other medical IT professionals with the critical information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure needed to help ensure quality care, record keeping and more.

Whether designing a new facility, budgeting a retrofit project or deploying medical equipment in a temporary hospital; there are several important aspects to consider. This blog article provides a quick guide to selecting critical information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure. It focuses on wireless systems updates that support 5G and other emerging factors like the IoT and IoMT, as they accelerate the digital transformation of hospitals and beyond with more robust networks in new locations: across properties, outdoors, on rooftops, in parking garages, and a variety of other general campus distribution points. 

The Digital Hospital Requires Intelligent Power Management

 As mission-critical facilities, hospitals must be designed to stay operational even during natural disasters and other emergencies. With so much processing power demand to operate medical equipment and biotech devices, it’s important to monitor and manage IT equipment so that issues can be prevented before they result in downtime. It’s also important to consider how intelligent power management solutions can integrate with Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software to provide a complete lens into the overall health of assets. Start by looking at the hardware. In this case:
 
Rack power distribution units (PDUs):
  • Monitor and control each piece of equipment to visualize over- and under-utilized equipment
  • Remotely reboot equipment immediately without the need to dispatch personnel
  • Meet regulatory compliance per the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) by integrating intelligent capabilities with electronic access control and tracking

Next, Consider the DCIM Software

  • Centrally manage and control PDUs to understand overall data center health
  • Test failover capability of the data center without having to flatline the power chain
  • Identify spikes, prevent potential power issues and maximize uptime

High-Performing Compute Requires Strong Support

Whether located in the data center, distributed throughout the medical campus or in outdoor locations, critical equipment must be protected and stored with strength and reliability.
 
For on-premise data centers:
  • Optimize operations within a cabinet that supports equipment, cable and airflow management, intelligent power distribution, environmental monitoring, physical security and system optimization
  • Simplify deployment with faster built-to-order configurability, industry-leading strength and scalability
  • Improve energy efficiency with a build-to-spec aisle containment solution that’s flexible enough to adapt to future growth

Wireless Infrastructure for 5G and Beyond Paves the Path for the IoMT

The positioning and installation of wireless access points (APs) is important as wireless networks play a crucial role in the delivery of key information to clinicians and patients, from the IoMT to patient monitoring, coordinated care, appointment scheduling, payment systems and more.

The most desired location for small cell and wireless AP deployment is ceiling mounted, as this location offers the greatest coverage and performance. That said, the adoption of new methods of ceiling-mount installations is proving to be significant in terms of offering quick-turnaround, serviceability, consistency and reducing the need to access the above-ceiling space for maintenance or technology upgrades.
 
Assessing the risks
As construction ramps up again for new or renovated health care buildings, the emphasis on infectious disease control measures is greater than ever.
 
Ceiling penetrations for the deployment of antennas, cables, fiber-optic cabling, radios and other components are critical, as improper installations introduce the opportunity for airborne pathogens to travel from the above-ceiling space to the patient space.
 
A robust wireless infrastructure must meet the demand for data from medical staff, patients, and visitors – but most importantly, it can’t impact the physical well-being of vulnerable patients.

Consider:
  • Dust, mold, and fungal spores found in the space above a suspended ceiling are a serious threat to immunosuppressed and other at-risk patients.
  • Preventing the movement of infectious materials between the above-ceiling space and occupied areas means avoiding holes and gaps in ceiling tiles for cable egress to Real Time Location System (RTLS) equipment or small cell AP antennas.
  • Lifting ceiling tiles often requires tenting and HEPA filters to be constructed around the work area – a costly and disruptive undertaking.
  • The number of wireless devices required within a facility, both medical and personal, will continue to increase. 
How to determine the method of physical network deployment:
  • Ceiling mounts are ideal for cellular and wireless APs, RTLS equipment, and other equipment.  Consistency of installation method across a variety of equipment is preferable for physical security, aesthetic and logistical reasons. 
  • Ensuring full access to the equipment and cabling without lifting the ceiling tiles reduces tenting costs and traffic disruption. This can be achieved via the use of a secure enclosure with a back-box and proper grommets and seals to maintain separation. 
  • Selecting solutions which simplify Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA) procedures while providing optimal wireless coverage saves time and reduces costs in the long term.
  • Choosing ceiling mounts with interchangeable doors for quick and easy future migration for AP upgrades is cost-effective, saves time and reduces material waste.
  • Consider compliance to codes and recommendations from accredited organizations.
    • ANSI/BICSI 004-2018 Information Communication Technology Systems Design and Implementation Best Practices for Healthcare Institutions and Facilities
      • Regarding placement of equipment – “…wireless antennas and access points be placed within enclosures or surface mounted in locations that provide access without disturbing the environment”
    • ANSI/BICSI 008-2018 Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) Systems Design and Implementation Best Practices Section 9.2    
  • Health care facilities “APs should be designed and installed so they are accessible for servicing and troubleshooting without the need for infectious control protocols”
    • “The wireless access point infrastructure physical design should consider consistency, compatibility, and ease of operational support while lowering overall cost.”

Protection vs. Convenience – Can You Have Both?

The short answer is yes. The benefits of having full access to wireless equipment and cabling after initial installation without needing to lift ceiling tiles are significant. This will ultimately offer significant cost savings, reduce maintenance time and prevent large disruptions to traffic flow throughout the facility.

Work with a manufacturer who can:
  • Ensure AP mounting solutions that enable effective management of wireless system and edge components and are compliant with ICRA guidelines
  • Offer enclosures that enable easy access to the AP and cabling without the need to open the ceiling space, stow excess cable service loop and prepare the AP location for quick and easy future technology upgrades
  • Offer effective airflow with vented doors for natural convention heat transfer without fans

Protecting Equipment at the Edge Demands Customization at Scale

Extending the premise network to outdoor locations, across health care campuses and at the edge creates new challenges for the premise network designer and installer (NDI), as it involves outside plant considerations, which are much different from day-to-day network installation challenges.
 
The NDI must carefully consider equipment physical protection, weather protection, temperature extremes, solar loading, aesthetics, lighting protection and installation costs.
 
What to consider when evaluating an outdoor enclosure: 
Select a NEMA-rated industrial enclosure rated for outdoor use. The main difference between these enclosures and standard IT enclosures is that industrial enclosures are completely sealed when closed to prevent ingress of dust and liquid. Different NEMA Type ratings protect against different levels of protection and cover for a wide variety of environmental conditions.
 
When evaluating an edge solution and manufacturer, consider the following:
  • Products with third-party certification, which verifies that the manufacturer’s claims are valid through several testing criteria
  • Robotically applied, continuous foam gaskets for precision and protection from ingress of dust and dirt
  • On-demand modifications (size, openings, color, accessories and more)

Ensuring Security

When planning for physical security, select an enclosure that ensures:
  • Data produced at the edge remains private and secured
  • Only authorized people have access to equipment and can deploy an access control system with alarm notifications
  • Automated logging of who and when equipment is accessed

Thermal Management

The sealed design of industrial enclosures does not allow for needed ventilation, so a filter fan or cooling unit is an important requirement to exhaust or reject heat from the enclosure in order to maintain the equipment manufacturer’s temperature operating range.
 
Work with a manufacturer who can include integrated thermal management solutions that are rated to match or exceed the enclosure rating.

Plan and Deploy Your Networks with Confidence. Protect and Treat Your Patients with Certainty.

Regardless of what state you are at in your project planning, or what’s driving the change in how you deliver patient care, simply getting started can seem overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to start with evaluating and selecting a partner you can trust. One who has the experience, expertise and a total ICT infrastructure solution offering you can depend on as you work together to deliver and support reliable network connectivity across your healthcare facility. Chatsworth Products is that partner. From conception to installation and beyond, you will realize reduced project complexity as you design and deploy your networks, while at the same time, you will help protect and service your patients with a new level of certainty.

To learn more about how CPI's wireless and edge solutions, click here.

Any questions? Use the comment box below!

Posted by Sam Rodriguez, Sr. Product Manager, Industrial Solutions at 4/1/2021 10:21:02 AM
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