Cook Children's Health Care System







Mobile clinical technologies, such as Computerized Physician Order Entry, Radiology PACS, Ambulatory and Inpatient EMR, and Vital Sign Integration have become a necessity
for physicians, nurses and staff. Additionally, smartphone communications and entertainment for patients, families and visitors have increased.

Wireless services have moved from a “nice to have” to mission critical. But early attempts to establish mobile solutions and workflow were intermittent due to spotty Wi-Fi coverage and a very limited deployment of single-carrier cellular support.


Comprehensive wireless is now center stage at Cook Children’s and led us to
build a business case for the Medical Grade Wireless Utility (MGWU). We had substantial goals. The MGWU would provide a hospital-owned infrastructure to transport any wire- less signal across more than 1 M sq. ft. of the Medical Center. It would offer multi-carrier smartphone support for everyone. It would enable mobile work- flow by improving Wi-Fi reliability for enterprise and clinical users. And it  would ease the hospital stay for patients, families, and visitors.

The MGWU would make financial sense. The highly engineered wireless solution would lessen reliance on vendors and enable IT to roll out new applications and devices without worrying about underlying infrastructure or costly infection control issues. 


We selected Black Box because of their expertise and experience with in-building wireless infrastructures in complex hospital environments. To address both present and future
wireless needs, Cook’s Children and Black Box converted disparate legacy wireless networksinto a comprehensive wireless solution capable of supporting 4G cellular, Wi-Fi, medical telemetry, pagers, 2-way radio, and public safety.

Black Box surveyed the entire Cook Children’s campus and optimized each and every wireless frequency to ensure consistent reliability everywhere in the medical center, including elevators, restrooms, and stairways. Black Box focused on coverage, capacity, and criticality. For cellular, this included meeting the carrier requirements to isolate the hospital from the external cellular network. For Wi-Fi, it included segmenting traffic
across multiple WLANS so that guest, enterprise, and medical usage could be managed independently, without affecting each other. Only after this attention to detail and the associated rigorous engineering was the solution deployed.


Now that Cook Children’s has a wireless infrastructure that we can trust, our focus has moved from the infrastructure to new end-user applications and devices. The first was a Vocera VoIP solution that integrated nurse call and bedside physiological monitoring alarms in the neonatal intensive care unit where Cook Children’s most fragile patients receive highly specialized and monitored care.

Reliable and silent communications that allow nurses to be both mobile and in contact with patients has enabled Cook Children’s to create a calming private room setting that vastly improves the patient/family experience. Parents can stay in the room 24x7 and the two-way
communications for both assistance calls and medical alarms enable nursing
to be efficient while providing critical emergency response across an expansive set of private rooms.

A clinician-driven initiative, Cook Children’s wanted to achieve an average hospital scan rate much higher than the industry average of 70 percent. Again, we did not have to worry
about the wireless environment, so IT was able to focus on usability of the barcode scanners, printers, and even the barcode band that would be placed  on patient wrists. When it came to rollout, the system integrity and continuity allowed IT to concentrate on training and support of the new application to maximize nursing adoption. The results have been astounding with more than 97 percent of patients and their medications being scanned on a daily basis.

With the general growth of wireless, the number of devices in a single room can challenge most wireless infrastructures. It is not uncommon now to have 4-to-6 wireless medical devices in a room and 4-to-6 wireless devices used by family, visitors, and patients for a total of a dozen wireless devices in a room. At Cook Children’s, the number of wireless devices has increased by more than 1,000 percent over the last 5 years with most of this growth on the GuestNet. But with the ability to offer different types of wireless connections and the ability to segregate Wi-Fi traffic between guest-critical, enterprise- critical, and life-critical, Cook Children’s has been able to manage this growth, keeping the GuestNet in check without impacting the throughput or reliability of the enterprise and
medical applications