Tell us a little about The Christ Hospital Network
“We’re in the Cincinnati, and also cover the Northern Kentucky region. We have one main large hospital and we just opened a new hospital in Liberty Twp. Then we have somewhere between 45 and 50 remote sites. Six of those are out-patient centers that are fairly large. The rest of them are physicians’ practices.”
What kind of mission-critical applications are in your hospitals that have been difficult for you to get a handle on, from a Wi-Fi performance management standpoint?
“For us, the number 1 app on the Wi-Fi is “voice.” We have about 1,000 Cisco 7925 phones and their performance is very sensitive to any RF disruptions. They are the canary in the coal mine when it comes to Wi-Fi performance and we use those for critical business processes in the hospital. We also have WOWs that we run Citrix clients on where the EMR application is served. Those are constantly moving up and down the halls and need good wireless performance also. And then we have a whole group of devices I refer to as clinical IoT, like IV pumps and glucose monitors. They’re small, battery powered and we have a lot of that stuff floating around too, and those aren’t always the most dependable wireless clients.”
What were you using or what were you looking for in a solution to try and help you get a handle on everything going on?
“We mainly rely on Cisco Prime Infrastructure and output from WLC’s to do a lot of our troubleshooting and get a handle on how the WLAN was performing, and there’s a real lack of visibility in terms of taking that data and trying to figure out what the actual end user experience is. That’s where 7SIGNAL really started to look attractive to us.”
Which portions of the 7signal solution have you implemented?
“We have a new hospital where Sapphire Eyes are fully deployed. Then we have Mobile Eye on some of our WOWs, strategically deployed for specific troubleshooting reasons, and we’re getting ready to do an enterprise-wide deployment of Mobile Eye as well.”
When you first deployed 7SIGNAL, were their certain areas of the hospital that you wanted to deploy to first because you wanted to get good Wi-Fi visibility into those areas?
“In our proof of concept we deployed Sapphire Eyes in our Emergency Department, and a few other clinical areas that were the source of the most tickets, and where wireless problems seemed to be the most elusive and where we get reports like all of a sudden the phones don’t work, or my WOW isn’t working very well. But now we are deploying the Sapphire Eyes to both of our hospitals and we’re going to try and cover all the floor space in both of them.”
You had also mentioned Mobile Eye and how you had deployed it to a few hundred WOWs so far. What kind of information are you getting out of that so far that you find useful?
“Mobile Eye has been great. One of the challenges I’ve had since I started working here is a lack of standardization in the adapters and drivers that were installed in the WOWs. So we might get tickets like, the Wi-Fi stinks in this corner of this wing, and we’d go and everything is fine. Well, the actual problem was that WOW had a 2.4GHz only adapter with really buggy drivers. And when that nurse came through to put the ticket in, she said the Wi-Fi stinks, you know the blame always goes to the infrastructure, it doesn’t usually go to the client. So having Mobile Eye really helped me make the case that we need to standardize on these, and look at this data – it shows that some of the adapters we are using are roaming really poorly and that’s affecting the business. And that was the ammunition we needed to say ok, let’s go spend a couple thousand dollars ripping and replacing this hardware with the stuff that the data shows works a lot better.”
With regard to full deployment, are you going to install Mobile Eye on more WOWs?
“Yes, we are going to install Mobile Eye on all the WOWs in both hospitals.”
We say that 7SIGNAL complements Cisco Prime. Do you find that to be the case?
“Yes, I do. Prime is a great tool for managing and monitoring the infrastructure itself. But when it comes to getting really granular information about what’s going on in the RF and what the experiences of specific clients are, the tools from 7SIGNAL are fantastic at that.”
On implementation, can you share any challenges you had?
“Hanging a Sapphire Eye is basically the same change as hanging an AP. We’re lucky in that we have a cabling vendor that’s done a lot of work for us. You need a special permit to get into the plenum and obviously, you need to work around schedules if you want to put a Sapphire Eye in a patient’s room. But for the most part, I just hand off a map to my cabling vendor and say this is where I want them and this is the direction the antennas should point.”
We say that Sapphire Eyes can cover 4 to 6 access points. What kind of coverage are you getting from a Sapphire Eye?
“We are in that range. We have a voice-grade deployment, so we have a fairly dense deployment in both of our hospitals. So I want to say they see 6 in some cases.”
Also, how do you deploy Mobile Eye to hundreds or thousands of workstations?
“We’ve handed it off to our desktop engineering team and they’re using SCCM to push the installer out to all the devices that we specify. And then we have Sonar servers in both of our hospitals so that WOWs in one hospital will run tests against the server in its hospital and not across the WAN. So that helps us isolate issues to the local network.”
How big is your IT staff?
“Total IT headcount is about 150. A big portion of those people work with applications and our EMR system.”
How many dedicated to working on the wireless network?
“Just me and one other person. But 7SIGNAL has been a huge time saver for us. You talk about doing remote packet capture with the Sapphire Eye, that’s one of my favorite features as well. Working with our new hospital up in Liberty Twp, that’s about a half hour drive from where my office is. But I have the ability to do a remote packet capture anywhere in that hospital at any time and look at spectrum analysis data, and everything else. There’s almost no reason that I’ll ever need to travel up there to do any troubleshooting. And I’ve even done it while I’ve had people experiencing problems on the phone with me. I ask them where they are, figure out what AP they’re on, run a PCAP, and do a little quick analysis. It really is that convenient.”