Installing in-building wireless communication systems inside existing hospitals adds several layers of complexity and comprises some of the most challenging construction environments. The factors involved include uninterrupted patient care, significant infection risk control measures, and high levels of hygiene, which are considerably more critical in a medical facility than a commercial or residential building. These public safety installation projects require extra steps to be taken to minimize the interaction between construction activity and caregiving operations. To ensure a safe environment for their patients, nurses, doctors, and staff, hospitals have developed industry-standard project management tools such as life safety plans and physical requirements like tenting to ensure patients' safety during construction.
Every Project Begins With ICRA
Construction projects in occupied hospitals require specialized procedures and equipment as they can negatively affect patients and possibly spread infection. Before any work begins, hospitals use a system called Infection Control Risk Assessment (ICRA). It's a roadmap a project manager follows, which delineates proactive environmental undertakings such as protective barriers, negative air pressure, dust control, and protective apparel. An Interim Life Safety Plan (ILS) is put in place to protect the safety of patients, staff, and visitors during construction activity. Every aspect of a cable installation must be reviewed in advance to identify hazards and specify preventative measures. In many cases, the setup time may take longer than the actual work itself.
The Infection Control Cube aka the Popemobile
Work takes place within an infection control cube; a four-sided Plexiglas workspace often referred to as a Popemobile, which connects to ceiling tiles and contains the work and debris inside. It minimizes the possibility of patient contamination. The work takes longer to complete and is significantly more complicated than installing a system in a residential building. It takes an incredible amount of coordination, but it's the cost of doing business in an occupied hospital.
Challenges Are Not Limited to Installation
Hospitals have unique design challenges, too, as they are often constructed using concrete, steel, and low-E glass. Radiology labs use lead lining in walls, and many hospitals have subfloors, up to 60 feet below ground level. These hospital-specific characteristics can all degrade hospital communications. The age of the building and the presence of lead-lined rooms and walls result in obstructions to RF signal propagation. These factors need to be considered when designing a new system for a hospital. The reliability of in-building public safety systems is even more critical in healthcare facilities due to the confinement of its residents.
DAS to the Rescue of the IoMT
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) involves connected devices used within a medical facility that allows doctors and nurses the ability to check on and monitor patients without physically being in the same room, allowing for significant increases in productivity. About 70 percent of health care organizations now utilize technology for monitoring practices. The influx of monitoring devices can put a strain on a hospital's network, which is where the installation of a distributed antenna system (DAS) comes into play. A DAS draws in signals from a macro network and evenly distributes it using multiple antennas placed throughout a medical complex, ensuring uninterrupted service. A DAS can support various wireless carriers, making it the obvious choice for hospitals today. DAS are flexible, robust, cost-effective solutions for private enterprises.
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