BT Vocera wireless badgeSouthampton University Hospital Trust staff will soon be able to communicate with each other using Star Trek style badges, after the trust deployed a new wireless network from Aruba.

The trust wanted a wireless trust that would “leverage a lot more out of our existing systems and benefit both patients and staff,” Ryan Hewitt, senior network and security analyst at Southampton University Hospital Trust (SUHT), told E-Health Insider.

Initially deployed in the general and neurology theatres at the Southampton General Hospital, the Princess Anne Hospital, and SUHT’s medical health records centre, the wireless network is initially being tested by radiologists and surgeons in operating theatres to view PACS images.

Following the introduction of the wireless network the trust is now set to begin piloting Vocera wireless badges from BT.

The BT Vocera system provides staff with hands free voice communication using a simple badge device (pictured). The badge can be clipped to a shirt pocket or collar, or worn on a lanyard, enabling instant, hands-free voice communication by simply pressing a button on the badge and asking the system to call by name, title, or function. Staff will be instantly connected to the resources or colleagues they need anywhere in the hospital’s wireless environment.

Hewitt said: “Vocera is the next step to showcase what wireless can bring to the trust, and we hope to be able to introduce handheld technologies of the back of it. At the end of September, we will hold a six week pilot in A&E and hope that this will help to get us the funding need to deploy the system in phases across the trust, to be completed within a year.”

Pilots were first run in operating theatres to ensure that it would work in any hospital environment in a secure and robust way.

Hewitt said: “We wanted to be able to provide our operating theatres with the technology first to see how well it runs. Since cabled networks can jeopardise the integrity of a sterile environment, robust wireless connectivity was mandatory. Feedback so far has been very positive and the system is appreciated by the staff who use it.

“The solution had to meet fundamental criteria of being secure, have high availability rates and be scalable. We needed to be able to ensure the integrity of the network – making sure that it was reliable and provided the paramount security necessary.”

Hewitt said: “The Aruba solution was easy to deploy and very secure, and was used to replace equipment from two vendors that could not deliver the required functionality or reliability.”

He added that reliability from the network has been obvious from the first go-live deployment using PACS.

“From the moment we took it out of the box it fitted directly into our existing network infrastructure and automatically secured the wireless ‘space’ throughout the hospital. What’s more, we were extremely impressed that the network was able to immediately identify rogue APs [application protocols], and could defend against potential threats like man-in-the-middle attacks by encrypting all data from the client directly through to the controller.

“Security is a major concern for any enterprise, but it is absolutely crucial for a healthcare institution to ensure the full protection of all confidential patient data. With the Aruba network we were able to accomplish that objective.”

In addition to using it for voice communications the trust plans to extend the use of the wireless network to aid tracking of patients and equipment.

“The long term vision is to make the whole trust wireless for both staff and patients with our warehouse staff able to easily locate patient records using scan- and-save technology. We also want to look at the use of RFID and barcoding and allowing our staff to be able to work in a more mobile way.”

Only a few dedicated members of the IT department are responsible for supporting the entire hospital, and a centrally-managed network that fits directly into SUHT’s existing infrastructure, without requiring upgrades to existing network equipment, was an important objective for SUHT.

Roger Hockaday, director of marketing for Europe at Aruba, told EHI: “This is a wonderful illustration of the vital role that wireless technology can play in a modern hospital environment. With doctors and staff always mobile, remaining in contact with them at all times, and providing them with secure access to medical information and systems are mission critical objectives."


Aruba networks