Aged care facility enables innovative healthcare applications with new WLAN infrastructure

Tuesday, 04 June, 2013

Royal Freemasons’ Benevolent Institution (RFBI) is partway through the deployment of new WLAN infrastructure to its 22 aged care villages located throughout New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

Andrew Alpe, CIO for the RFBI, said: “If you don’t have a solid network, you can’t deploy anything else. If it’s not reliable, you can’t run your services.”

Ben Giblett, of Schepisi Communications, who is managing the project for RFBI, completed deployment to 10 facilities by May 2013.

He expects to complete the rollout to all 22 RFBI residential facilities, which employ 1200 staff and are home to 2000 elderly residents, by the end of 2013. An estimated 1000 access points will have been installed when the project is completed.

The solution is based on the Meru MobileFLEX architecture, and the full deployment will be centrally managed by a four-member IT team using Meru’s E(z)RF Network Manager solution.

Alpe said: “We are managing all sites deployed so far from a central location and we are not experiencing any problems managing that wireless network at all,” he said. “It’s amazing that such a small group is able to manage such a large network.”

Using the solution, the RFBI will be able to unify a number of new and innovative healthcare applications via Wi-Fi. These include an electronic health record (EHR) system which is accessed via mobile devices at residents’ bedsides and a medication management system which also relies on the Wi-Fi and is designed to save time and reduce the risk of errors.

RFBI has also introduced iPads for residents to use for communicating with friends and family. At the pilot facility where RFBI first rolled out the wireless network, residents are now using Skype in the privacy of their own rooms to communicate with relatives overseas.

Alpe shared the reaction of a 100-year-old resident to the news that Wi-Fi was coming to his facility. “’Fantastic,’ he said. ‘I can join my laptop and my iPad to the network and speak to my relatives.’ It opens your mind to the possibilities when someone his age wants to do that.”

Future plans call for deployment of a real-time location system (RTLS), which will be integrated into the Wi-Fi enabled nurse call system so that residents can call for assistance anywhere within the facility. To date, this has been achievable only by pressing a wall-mounted and wired call-point, which may be out of reach to residents with limited mobility.

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