IT Infrastructure Deployment in a New Healthcare Facility: Best Practices for Success

Dave Gardea, Practice Director, Facility Technology Services

Your information technology organization has recently been engaged to manage the infrastructure deployment for a new hospital or a major renovation undertaken by your healthcare system. Ideally, that facilities project is in the very early stages of design or construction. Developing a sound management plan throughout the execution phase of the project is fundamental to the future success of technology implementation in a new healthcare facility.

Capital projects require close collaboration with key stakeholders, clinicians, and design/construction professionals. It’s important that IT becomes familiar with all phases of the project as well as planned deliverables; you need to ask those questions required to define the technology strategy and vision for the new facility. Below are some of the best practices that IT should consider for project success both during plan preparation and the execution phase of the facilities project.

  1. Get familiar with the design

Collect low voltage and furniture drawings from the builder or architect. Examine the facility design for network port density and placement of jacks for data, telecom, patient telemetry, wireless LAN, etc. For example: do patient headwalls have adequate network connectivity for all the medical devices planned for patient rooms; are the planned ports in proximity to electrical outlets and planned furniture or casework; do the IT closet designs meet your space, rack utilization, and power requirements? Identify and report any deficiencies or needed revisions early in the project to avoid costly changes later. Once the builder’s electrical contractor completes installation and certification of structured cabling, request copies of as-built drawings indicating port labeling in all rooms and IT closets. This will be very useful in managing the network install. Since drawings may be revised often during the project, request that IT project leadership be advised of changes.

  1. Understanding the client’s technology vision

New healthcare facilities almost always include plans for new systems, significant upgrades for additional functionality, and increased reliance on technology to meet patient care objectives. Meet with clinicians early to discuss technology selection and deployment. Review floor plans to make decisions that will dictate placement and selection of devices, applications, nurse call features, mobility solutions or other systems to match their requirements and workflow. As the building gets closer to significant completion, conduct tours and meetings with all departments in their new locations to refine device placement. Confirm their workflow will be enhanced by the new layout rather than limited. Use this input collected from the departments and other stakeholders to refine the technology budget and strategy as needed.

  1. Function as the IT single point of contact

A new building brings a diverse number of resources into play including architects, builders, various contractors, vendors, telecom, biomed, and other key stakeholders. It’s a good practice for the IT organization to assign a project leader as the single point of accountability at the site for all IT infrastructure inquiries, needs, or decisions. Requirements are then managed through the project manager to the appropriate IT departments in project meetings. This individual should function as the “boots-on-the-ground” contact attending all construction meetings and site walks while developing a solid rapport with the above resources.

  1. Engage the stakeholders

Beginning early in the project, identify all the project stakeholders. This can seem like a simple project management task but in new construction, this can represent a broader spectrum of individuals. The project manager needs to refine scope around their interests and expectations regarding the IT infrastructure and establish a communication plan in order to deliver concise and timely updates. In addition to the typical steering committee and project meetings, an excellent forum is the recurring meetings usually managed by the builder. Since participants often include the owner, architect, contractors, and facilities leadership, it’s a great opportunity to maintain IT infrastructure topics as a regular part of the agenda facilitating discussion of IT requirements and project status updates. Be sure to participate in transition planning meetings that often commence months before the activation of a new facility. These planning and staff orientation meetings provide for regular two-way communication with leadership, training departments, and hospital staff.

  1. Capture key construction and transition milestones

Ensuring that IT project leadership has a good understanding of the construction plan will help keep technology installation in sync. It’s important that key milestones like structured cabling work, drywall finishing, casework installation, and IT closet completions be incorporated into the IT infrastructure plan. For example, IT closet completions should drive joint IT/builder sign-offs and will also set the timing for network switch installation to commence in that facility location. Likewise, drywall completions mark the final dates for requesting lower-cost changes for wall reinforcements for wall-mounted computers, tracking boards, or other devices. Since facility transition plans outline dates for staff orientation in the new building and ultimately when departments will relocate, identify those target dates and incorporate them into the IT plan so technology delivery can be completed well in advance of those training and move-in dates. Collaborating with the builder and transition leadership can make developing the detailed plan a team effort.

  1. Managing the deployment

Plan in advance of the execution phase creation of an applications inventory to match standardization and the support model across the enterprise. Validate this inventory and any exceptions with clinicians and then use for creation of the standard image to be installed on computers in the new facility. Request the builder or facilities department provide a secure and clean staging area to use for all device receiving, assembly, and configuration. Mark up the furniture plans you collected from the builder to show all planned device locations. Utilize these with your desktop and clinical applications testing teams for wayfinding and tracking progress. Record network ports assigned to all devices, particularly if specific VLANs have been allocated. Follow this with a communication to hospital staff, in advance of the facility activation, they should refrain from relocating devices to different network ports.

Participating in the opening of a new facility can be a daunting challenge, but with effective collaboration and careful implementation planning, technology in the new facility can be efficiently brought online with minimal risk and delay.