Hamilton Health Sciences builds home for IT dept

The Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS)’ technology hub that was launched last week is at once the new home of the hospital’s IT department, as well as a testing ground with industry vendors around innovative health care technologies.

The 14,000-square-foot hub is a single location that consolidates previously segregated sub groups, from help desk to project management, and is completely open concept designed for collaboration, said Mark Farrow, HHS’ chief information officer and assistant vice-president of ICT. “So, when a call came into the help desk, they would have to page people and look for people,” said Farrow. “Now all they have to do is stand up.”

The hub’s staff of 80 manages the help desk, infrastructure, customer service, project management, production support, and Web development. But besides collaboration, enabling innovation was the other primary purpose of the technology hub whereby new healthcare technologies can be built and tested in a real-life environment before being more widely deployed across HHS’ hospital network.

For instance, IBM’s blade technology is being test run to support new kiosk initiatives that will enable a self-serve environment for patients coming into the hospitals for diagnostic imaging for instance. If successful, the kiosks will allow patients to simply swipe a health card and receive directions to where they are to receive their test, be it an x-ray or ultrasound.

Other projects in testing phase are Cisco Canada’s network technology to test “everything from laptops to new devices that we will be using at the [patients’] bedside,” said Farrow. And yet another joint project is with Microsoft Canada where its unified communications technology will be deployed on hardware from HP Canada to iron out possible kinks that may surface in a health care environment.

A million and a half dollars from HHS was put toward building the space, and approximately an additional $400,000 was received from various vendors in the form of hardware, software and services. Besides IBM, Cisco, HP and Microsoft, other vendors include CompuCom Systems, Dell Canada, gluPLUG, NetApp, Nortel, and Panduit Canada.

It took six years to convince the hospital to build the facility, find the space, and collaborate with architects and designers, recalled Farrow, and another year to actually build it. Now, the dual function of the hub – innovation and collaboration – aligns with HHS’ Vision 2010, he said, which is an initiative the hospital embarked upon a year-and-a-half ago “around how we’re bringing technology to the bedside, to the people that need it, and recognizing the mobile nature of healthcare.”

As HHS implemented its new strategy for healthcare, Farrow said “we needed a facility that would help move that innovation along faster.”

Technologies successfully tested in the hub will eventually be extended across the six clinics and cancer centre in HHS’ network. And beyond that, HHS is working to deploy those technologies at other nearby hospitals in its Local Health Integration Network (LHIN).

CompuCom Systems donated $50,000 worth of services and hardware to the hub, and also participated in amassing donations from the other vendors toward HHS. CompuCom’s account executive for healthcare, Claudio diGirolamo, said the company’s contribution is an enabler for the new healthcare technology at HHS. “We understand the importance of health care and the ability of IT to drive out the innovation into healthcare today,” said diGirolamo.

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