Photo: Adventist Health
West Coast health system Adventist Health determined that guest WiFi is a mission-critical service for patients, families and staff, because many of the organization’s facilities are in locations with limited cell service.
Staff insisted they need to ensure everyone who steps through the doors – regardless of where they were on the premises – has simple, straightforward access to Adventist Health’s WiFi 6 network. The bottom line was to have a faster, simpler and more painless way to connect.
“We would hear grumblings from some of our sites about connectivity, which is especially difficult for those who are at the hospital overnight,” said Ed Vanderpool, senior IT manager at Adventist Health. “We wanted to provide them with a more enjoyable stay at our hospitals, and we were focused on adding value to their experience while they were at our facilities.”
Adventist Health was an early adopter of Cisco’s WiFi 6 solutions, with a goal of providing a better patient and guest experience overall. But having a robust, fast wireless network is just the beginning. The staff members realized they needed to further reduce friction for people looking to access the network.
“OpenRoaming technology promised to enable staff and visitors at our hospitals to connect seamlessly and securely to our WiFi network without needing to enter login credentials, thus reducing hurdles for clients seeking speedy Internet access,” Vanderpool explained. “The spark for us to look at OpenRoaming technology is that most of our hospitals are in rural locations, meaning you don’t have the best cell service.”
“Right when people walk in a facility, if their carrier is on our list, they get popped over to a nice, clean wireless infrastructure.”
Ed Vanderpool, Adventist Health
Further, the provider organization could not expect the majority of patients and guests to be tech-savvy enough to troubleshoot if connecting to the network wasn’t incredibly simple.
OpenRoaming afforded staff the opportunity to implement a solution that requires no extra work: All patients, families and employees would see is powerful connectivity. All the infrastructure and connections being made on the back end are invisible to them.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
Cisco helped Adventist Health complete the rollout of OpenRoaming service to all 24 of the health system’s campuses throughout the West Coast and Hawaii.
“We then use Cisco DNA Spaces software as the engine that provides the OpenRoaming authentication,” Vanderpool explained. “With OpenRoaming, users now can instantly connect to our WiFi 6 network without needing to enter an email address or password. They are automatically segmented on the network, so they have access to our wireless network, but not any of our corporate functions, keeping things secure.
“OpenRoaming offered us seamless connectivity for clients, all while ensuring their privacy,” he continued. “Right when people walk in a facility, if their carrier is on our list, they get popped over to a nice, clean wireless infrastructure. Clients don’t know what is happening in the background. They just see their strong connection and great cell reception.”
Adventist Health has seen an increase in connectivity not just from patients, families and staff, but from hundreds of traveling nurses and doctors, as well. Being in a rural area, the organization has many doctors and nurses who are there for a short time, and it’s important they get great connectivity.
Staff members use the Adventist Health app, which contains their unique IDs, to automatically connect to the WiFi 6 network via the OpenRoaming service on their arrival. This enables them to access necessary applications (like patient records) easily and securely.
Security also is critical for Adventist Health when it comes to hospital WiFi.
“The bottom line is that clients must have online access when in our facilities. Not being able to connect is not an option,” Vanderpool said. “This means we must ensure the connection we offer is completely secure. OpenRoaming and our trusted partners offer the security we need to guarantee safety for our guests and their data.”
Since implementing the new wireless technology, Adventist Health has had fewer calls coming in from staff about an inability to connect or problems with speed. In fact, the organization pretty much has seen calls like that disappear, Vanderpool reported.
“We also have seen a drop in incoming support tickets around WiFi connectivity, and our attach rate continues to rise, meaning clients and staff are staying online for longer periods of time,” he said. “This technology also has opened the door to conversations about future projects we couldn’t have considered before.
“Applications like wayfinding or pushing notifications about specials in the gift shop or the cafeteria were always very long-term projects, but now we have the infrastructure that can make those use cases a reality,” he added.
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
“If you have the infrastructure set up – and most hospitals do – the process is straightforward,” Vanderpool advised. “It’s adding an SSID, a little back-end work, security, etc. With Cisco DNA spaces, it was easy and simple for us to manage with little overhead. You can set it up and start monitoring right away.
“OpenRoaming is beneficial as new IT requests come in from your stakeholders,” he concluded. “You don’t have to bolt on an entirely new technology stack costing hundreds of thousands of dollars just to do one specific task. OpenRoaming becomes a platform that serves as the baseline infrastructure to support a variety of use cases that are available now, but will also likely arise in the coming years.”
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Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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