Healthcare Provider Crisis Planning and Implementation

Bob Nilsson Director, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 20 Mar 2020

Pop-up Wi-Fi-enabled “COVID cabanas” expand patient capacity 

“Connectivity is like air in critical healthcare environments like these.”
– Doug McDonald, Extreme Networks

The expanding coronavirus pandemic has suddenly presented new challenges and stresses to healthcare providers, who must now expand their patient capacity as rapidly as possible. Extreme’s Director of Product Management for Global Healthcare Doug McDonald is working closely with hospitals and medical centers as they plan and implement outdoor tents for testing, triage, and treatment as a means to expand and protect their existing capacity. With 20 years of IT experience, eleven of those at Henry Ford Health System managing a large team responsible for their mobility architecture and digital health, Doug is in position to help Extreme meet the needs of healthcare during this crisis as they react quickly to the rapidly-unfolding events.

Doug McDonald, Extreme’s director of product management for global healthcare, is helping Extreme Networks meet the needs of the healthcare industry, especially during the current coronavirus crisis.

Hospitals around the world have certainly experienced short-term disruptions over the years, like severe weather events and power failures, but nothing quite like the current pandemic. Suddenly, employees across a wide range of industries are forced to work at home. The situation requires extreme agility and flexibility. Healthcare is on the front lines in this pandemic and faces the need to expand patient capacity rapidly to handle people afflicted by the COVID-19 virus. State governments are helping by temporarily lifts regulatory requirements on hospitals and care facilities and ensuring an adequate number of health care providers can be available to patients during this crisis. 

A negative pressure tent outside University of Utah Hospital,
where people can be tested without having to go inside
the hospital building.

One way to rapidly expand patient capacity is with drive-up tents, often 3000 square feet in size, which can be used for testing, triage, and overflow capacity to treat the ill. It is important that the tents include both Wi-Fi and wired network coverage to provide baseline communications, Epic EMR, and connectivity for medical devices, scanners, and printers — which require VPN back to the hospitals. All connections must be completely secure. The question is how to get network connectivity to the tent areas, which can be separated from the hospital buildings by 20-100’ and often across roadways.

Connecting the pop-up medical areas to the network

While some outdoor Wi-Fi is already present at hospitals specifically to provide connectivity at clinician break areas, extending the network quickly to tent sites can pose significant challenges. Interior spaces throughout all medical facilities are consistently well-blanketed, but very little Wi-Fi tends to leak through hospitals’ window panes. Standard cable lengths are too limiting to accommodate the long stretches needed to reach the outdoor sites. The environmental challenges include heat, humidity, and traffic.

Ultimately, the solution to rapidly providing network connectivity to pop-up tents starts with running point-to-point wireless bridges from the buildings with wireless repeaters as necessary. Wi-Fi access points inside each tent provide complete wireless coverage, as well as wired connectivity for the printers.

Rapid Outdoor Connectivity Kit

To help hospitals quickly and easily extend secure connectivity to temporary pop up sites, we’ve created packages of pre-validated, curated set of products. Based on powerful, Wi-Fi 6 meshed technology, the solutions provide secure, encrypted extension of the hospital’s existing communications infrastructure. The extended networks may be managed from the cloud with ExtremeCloud IQ. They include both wired and wireless connectivity to meet the needs of EMR, medical instruments, printing, and voice communication. Several varieties of the Rapid Outdoor Connectivity Kits will be available to address different needs for cloud and on-prem network management, as well as wired/wireless vs wireless-only environments.

What’s Next?

IT managers at healthcare facilities are faced with addressing the human issues of coping with the stress that comes from situations like this. Providing guest Wi-Fi access for patients and guests in and around the tents will be important. Depending on how the pandemic progresses, hospitals and other care facilities will continue expanding capacity as needed. Extreme will continue working with those involved to make is as easy as possible to work through these tasks. We are updating and tuning our solution sets to help meet the new needs brought on by the crisis. Visit our Remote Networking Solution page for our latest updates.

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