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IT strategy at Nationwide Children's Hospital sticks to basics

Allel Bernard | March 12, 2013
As Nationwide Children's Hospital opens a $430 million facility, the CIO for the Columbus, Ohio-based facility says her strategy focuses less on cutting-edge technology and more on improving the user experience for patients and physicians alike.

RFID devices and QR codes help ensure that patients at Nationwide Children's Hospital receive the right medication.

"I agree that the technology in of itself is not bleeding edge but the work that we put into the tight integration with the technology is really where the magic happened," she says. "That was the big leap for us."

When it comes to user-facing technology, the IT department has two distinct implementations to manage. For patients, there's the in-room "edutainment" system that provides information, games, movies, live broadcasts from the stage at the Galaxy Lounge play area, and the ability to order meals any time. For staff, there's a combination of thin clients (Hewlett-Packard), virtual desktop infrastructure (Citrix Systems) and single sign-on (CA).

Rooms at Nationwide Children's Hospital give patients access to video games, movies, meals and information about their treatment.

Eventually, Zabawski says, the plan is to roll out VDI to the whole facility. The convenience, time saving and productivity gains are undeniable. The biggest win, she says, is the "roaming profile" feature. "If you're a clinician and you're in your office and you sign on to Epic, if you go up to the floor and you sign on, you are in the same place you were when you were in your office. That's been a big satisfier for the physicians."

This type of functionality also extends to ultrasounds. These are broadcast over the Wi-Fi network so doctors can see them in real time from any device connected to the VPN. This includes a few doctors based in Hawaii. In the past, docs had to use a dedicated viewing room or take a 10-minute walk to the radiology department located in the older hospital wing.

Long-term Healthcare IT Strategy Addresses Device Integration, Big Data

With all this back-end integration, you might think a new data center would be in order for Nationwide Children's Hospital. Instead, though, the new facility needed a main equipment room and 29 telecom closets. NCH is planning for future needs by looking at converged infrastructure (CI) solutions to turn its disaster recovery facility into a high availability hot-site and use VMotion for load balancing for Tier 1 apps.

Nationwide Children's Hospital added telecom closets to accommodate its technology upgrade, but thanks to virtualization it didn't need a new data center.

So far, so good-but this is just the beginning, Zabawski says. "We went through an exercise of must-have, nice-to-have and then a wish list. We managed the budget with the must-haves. There's some still nice-to-haves that are still on our list."

One example is the capability for an individual patient's EMR to be able to automatically reset the dosage of a medication pump. Currently, NCH is testing real-time location service technology to manage the pumps' location, and IT can remotely push OS updates to all the pumps, but that's where it stops.


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