Wireless mesh works wonders for Royal Ottawa hospital

The Royal Ottawa Hospital will be the first in Canada to deploy a wireless mesh network for telemedicine, accessible from all hospital facilities and grounds, when it opens to patients in December 2006.

The Nortel Mobility solution will debut at the hospital’s mental health centre and research institute for use by more than 1,000 doctors, researchers and hospital staff to improve efficiency and productivity, and enhance the quality of care delivered.

“Hospitals tend to be large facilities,” said Brian McFadden, chief research officer, Nortel Networks. “This solution allows connectivity to a network with broadband capabilities, wirelessly. It allows (clinical staff) to stay online throughout the facility regardless of the task being undertaken.” The network will go with the staff, rather than the staff having to go with the network, according to McFadden.

“It builds-in flexibility for clinicians,” said Bruce Swan, CEO, Royal Ottawa Health Care Group. “(Wireless connectivity) makes better use of people’s time. It allows information to be recorded at the time of the procedure, rather than having (clinicians) go back to a workstation to input it.”

Nortel’s Wireless Mesh Network solution uses wireless links to connect access points in large open areas to provide secure, seamless access to wireless broadband services, the company said. It allows organizations to extend wireless local area networks (LANs) in areas where it is difficult or cost prohibitive to run cables.

In the wireless mesh, said McFadden, traditional access point contacts to networks form the basis of an access point-to-access point wireless connection. “Access points in a mesh talk to [one another] wirelessly and horizontally.”

According to Swan, the ability to install a mesh was built into the design of the Royal Ottawa Hospital building. “Positioning of the nodes, required to transmit information, where they will be most practical is easier than retrofitting a hospital, because you don’t have to work around (existing) building infrastructure.”

Wireless mesh can cover a broad area with complete Wi-Fi access without the wiring to all of the access points by connecting them through their own wireless network, according to McFadden.

Clinical teams can use wireless-enabled laptops and other handheld computing devices to access the hospital’s internal network, patient records, Internet, e-mail, file sharing and other applications.

“It is going to drastically reduce the potential for errors,” said McFadden.

“It will be much more efficient and effective for doctors and nurses.” ameriTel Consulting, a wireless consulting company responsible for the design and implementation of the hospital’s IT and telecom infrastructure, selected Nortel’s wireless solution.

Nortel Mobility Solutions will also be used to manage state-of-the-art security systems at the hospital.

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