• United States
by Laurianne Mclaughlin

The right Rx: Adventist Health chooses Symbol

Dec 08, 20034 mins
Network SecurityWi-Fi

Greg McGovern, CTO at Adventist Health, decided to go with Symbol Technologies for his wireless needs, even though his company’s wired network heavily favors Cisco equipment.

Greg McGovern, CTO at Adventist Health, decided to go with Symbol Technologies for his wireless needs, even though his company’s wired network heavily favors Cisco equipment. “It was a big step for us to say, ‘Well, let’s not go Cisco for the wireless LAN, because Symbol makes more sense for the future,'” he says.

Adventist Health, a faith-based nonprofit headquartered in Roseville, Calif., that includes 16 home-care agencies, two joint-venture retirement centers and 20 hospitals in four states, is rolling out a clinical information system across its hospital locations.

The pilot WLAN in Portland, Ore., was installed in May and went live in July. About 250 clinicians and about 50 IT and corporate employees now use the WLAN in two locations. Eventually, between 2,000 to 3,000 notebook-equipped employees and 2,000 PDA users will, too.

“It’s really our clinical need for bedside information that’s driving us into mobility,” McGovern says. “How do I create an environment so a clinician can run in with a notebook or PDA and get to the information they need quickly, but securely?”

Adventist’s WLAN users are highly mobile, from nurses carrying wireless handsets to doctors and other clinicians pushing carts with notebook PCs on them. This mobility consideration pushed McGovern toward Symbol. For example, he’s using 128-bit encrypted key security. With the Cisco setups he investigated, as users hopped from access point to access point, the encrypted key had to be renegotiated. With a voice application, it was possible to lose the connection. Symbol’s switch eliminated this issue.

Costs also loomed large in the decision. “Symbol was about one-third of the cost of Cisco in terms of capital outlay,” McGovern says. “The ongoing work is where the savings really reside. We have virtually no ongoing cost with the Symbol products.”

Referring to Symbol’s thin access point model, McGovern says, “When you take the brains off the [access point] and put them onto the switch, you get a huge benefit in terms of cost and management. If one of those [access points] goes bad, it’s no big deal. We’ve found it takes about 15 minutes for a tech to configure and install a [Symbol] switch. That value stands out really clearly.

“Any approach where I move intelligence away from the edge and into the core of my network, that makes sense – not just for wireless. This gives me a lot more flexibility,” he adds.

The upgrade path was also a selling point. “If I’m going to go from 802.11b to a to g and on, it’s just a quick little software upgrade,” McGovern says. “I don’t have to buy new hardware or move [access points].” Symbol also seems to be trying to go the extra mile in customer service, he says.

While Adventist uses four Symbol switches in Portland and 13 others in three other locations, McGovern estimates that he’ll eventually deploy 70 to 90 switches across the company.

Looking ahead to what he wants next from WLAN technology, McGovern says he would like tools that could warn him before wireless equipment walks out the door and help him locate doctors or nurses in a building based on the location of PDAs.

A parting tip from McGovern for WLAN implementers: Think big. Plan ahead for additional users, and think more broadly than one functional business need for the WLAN, he advises. “You put it in for the clinical stuff . . . then people see other uses. It grows once the technology is there for your specific tactical need,” he says.

Back to feature: “WLAN shakeout ahead”