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Cisco middleware solution create ‘healing’ environment for Halton Healthcare

When you head over to Oakville, Ont., a quiet suburb of the Greater Toronto Area, you’ll drive by the palatial and new Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital operated by Halton Healthcare, one of Ontario’s smart hospitals that aims to use technology to cater to the best patient experience.

As soon as you walk into the hospital, you won’t feel like you’re in a hospital. There are minimal paging announcements calling out instructions. There’s a sense of peace and calmness, which is very unusual for a hospital. You would never know that the hospital was integrated with state-of-the-art technology powered by vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. Halton Healthcare is the winner of the Large Public Sector award for the Ingenious Awards hosted by the Information Technology Association of Canada.

Sandy Saggar, chief information officer of Halton Healthcare, said the idea was to give patients a quieter environment, one that resembles a healing centre.

“We didn’t want it to feel like a hospital…we used to have a lot more overhead calling…if there’s an incident, or an event, or someone’s having a cardiac arrest, we wanted to make sure there was effective communication to the response team,” Saggar said, adding that mostly everything in the hospital was connected through technology. That includes items such as mobile phones, patient care equipment, and the real-time locating system, which are all interconnected through Cisco’s infrastructure.

There are three facilities operated by Halton Healthcare in Southern Ontario (Georgetown, Oakville, and Milton). Saggar said the team took 10 years to plan and build the Oakville and Milton locations and they wanted to build technology into the foundation of the building, rather than have to do upgrades after construction.

“The biggest challenge we had in planning for a smart hospital was ‘Are we going to be outdated by the time the shovels hit the ground?’” Saggar said, adding that the hospital wanted to make sure it was investing $3.36 billion in capital redevelopment across all three sites effectively. He said the team was careful in ensuring the technology was deployable an interoperable.

In total, Halton Healthcare has 4,022 staff and 350 physicians. The new and expanded hospitals have a range of facilities that Saggar said were implemented through lots of research, talking to staff, physicians and the community.

“We did a lot of engagement internally and out in the industry like going to conferences,” he said. “We would go to these large-scale healthcare IT conferences to be able to understand the art of the possible, what’s up and coming.”

From hospital beds to patient-nurse communication, Saggar explained that the hospital took a lot of effort to create a smart hospital that would keep up with the changes in technology.

The hospital incorporated Cisco’s software including VCE Vblock System, Aironet Wireless Access Points and Controllers, Unified Communications Manager, and ASA Firewalls, among others.

For example, the hospital can tag and track specific at-risk patients. So if a patient has dementia and is at risk and attempts to leave the floor, the elevators won’t function, and doors will automatically lock; in turn, an alarm will be sent to security, who will receive a notification on their phone. There’s also real-time locating services for staff who are at risk.

“You may have a patient who is being violent. Well, if you press a button on your tag, we know where you are in the building, and so your peers on the floor and security will get an alarm right to their phone and they can go directly to the location and assist,” Saggar said.