BTE: Do you have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, or do you have a list of pre-approved devices that physicians and staff can use to access biomedical data and applications?
Marty Miller: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is affiliated with USC, so in addition to doctors, nurses and other staff here at the hospital we also have a number of faculty. This led us to adopt a BYOD policy five years ago because we were not in a position to dictate to the hospital staff, as well as all of the faculty and students, what devices they could use since we weren’t paying for the devices after all. So our security policy dictates which parts of the data we can control, and what has happened with this medical grade network is that it doesn’t matter what device they bring in.
To add a little additional color regarding the medical grade wireless network, we provide cellular service from four different providers, we are delivering Phillips telemetry information, we do wireless documentation, guests who come into the hospital, whether they be family, teenage children or others, all have wireless as well as cellular access. We are also supporting wireless smart pumps and digital imaging machines, and all of this under one integrated Medical Grade wireless network.
We have a validation, or certification process we go through with devices that will be delivering high acuity, highly time sensitive information. We do a certification process for those, but in general, the consumer type of devices, we are already built to accept.
BTE: To take the question to the next level, what applications do you encourage/allow physicians to use over this network, and do you get deeply involved in determining which applications doctors can or cannot use?
Marty Miller: In the spirit of BYOD, we try not to be too prescriptive. So if we deploy an iPad, for example, we also deploy a standard set of applications which are mostly reference-type applications that could be helpful to them and which they have a license to use throughout the enterprise.
However, to each their own. They did bring their own device, so they can use whatever applications they are comfortable with and we are purely interested in controlling the confidential patient information and making sure all devices are in compliance. For example, there are a number of different note taking applications available to doctors and we try not to be prescriptive at all. If a doctor wants to use Epocrates, that’s fine, if they want to use something else that’s fine too.
BTE: Does the medical grade wireless also incorporate and feed data to electronic medical records systems?
Marty Miller: Yes, so it provides the highway for many of our biomedical devices, which talk to each other over a wireless network and connect with a messaging system that then inserts those records, whether they be imaging data, test results or physician notes, into the electronic medical records system.
BTE: What exactly differentiates Medical Grade Wireless from standard wireless technology deployed at a typical hospital or health system?
Marty Miller: We think of assurance as the key differentiator, and assurance is made up of multiple components. First, it guarantees signal strength in areas of the hospital where you want to have a medical grade network. Due to costs, there may be circumstances where some organizations decide certain facilities, or individual buildings, don’t need to have medical grade wireless capability. You also get a pre-defined capacity that is well known to you, such as how many devices you can handle on your network per square foot.
Knowing that there is reliable security in place is another element, as is scalability of the network. So what makes it Medical Grade is the hospital preparation of all of those things that guarantee the assurance level necessary to deliver time sensitive, high acuity biomedical applications.
Now we have been working with the West Wireless Health Institute on the reference architecture for about a year, but we have had a medical grade wireless infrastructure for about five years now. We recently opened our newest hospital building, which really has all of our most critical learnings incorporated into it.
It’s also important to remember that we are making this reference architecture freely available to hospitals and health systems. We believe it’s very important for it to be shared because we are doing more care over the airwaves now than ever before and the last thing we would want to hear is any institution having a sentinel event where there was harm brought to a patient, or worse yet death, and it has to do with a device that was thought to be functioning correctly, and perhaps the device was but the wireless connection was not and caregivers were not alerted to some sort of critical condition.
Gary and Mary West have generously made this available because (1) they believe it improves care and (2) it saves money not to have to put in a dedicated network for each different vendor the hospital gets connected medical devices from. When the FDA approves a device for medical care, they assume the device will function correctly over a wireless network and that the wireless network is functioning like it should. So this is being made available in the interests of public health and I think that it’s great that Gary and Mary West have put this kind of energy behind it.
BTE: How long do you think it will be before medical grade wireless reaches ubiquity?
Marty Miller: I believe that by the end of 2013 we are going to see a tipping point where it becomes the expected standard, where at the executive level of CEO, COO and CFO there will be some familiarity with what it is and why its important. It truly takes a multidisciplinary approach to determine what your requirements are and institutionally what your assurance level needs to be. Once you have defined those requirements, then you can begin that road map of how to get there. I think by the end of this year, beginning of next year, we will have a lot of traction heading in that direction.
I can tell you right now I know of multiple hospitals that are currently building their facilities and they have recognized that this is the foundation for the future, and they want to install the system in their facilities before we finish building them, so they have quickly come to the West Wireless Health Institute and asked us to help them get Medical Grade installed.
There are very prestigious universities right now developing medical grade wireless networks because they understand its advantages for the future and they are doing it from the ground up.