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Overcoming Critical Hospital Cell Phone Lapses

Radiology and IT departments require quick solution for cell signal dead spots.

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You can either cry about it. Or laugh about it … and then fix it.

Most integration firms have found themselves in unlucky situations similar to what The Repeater Store, a Laguna Hills, Calif.-based integrator specializing cell phone booster solutions, faced during the initial roll out of a high-stakes, mission critical hospital project.

The objective was clear and laid out by its three primary contacts, all members of the IT department: solve the facility’s dead spots and provide consistent coverage throughout the 220,000-square-foot facility at Mountain Point Medical Center of IASIS Healthcare., which opened in May 2015.

One area in which cell coverage remained a big challenge is where the IT department is located. Yes, where the folks who hired them sit.

The mission was accomplished quickly and efficiently by The Repeater Store—well, mostly. One area in which cell coverage remained a big challenge is where the IT department is located. Yes, where the folks who hired them sit.

What followed was a series of conference calls, says The Repeater Store director of operations Tom Hernandez. An additional area of the hospital still not getting adequate cell coverage was in the radiology rooms.

The RepeaterStore enlisted an RF engineer to work with the field crew. Firewalls were discovered that were not initially noted in the floor plans or in the site survey that effectively isolated areas like the IT department and radiology from outside signals.

The integrator ultimately used nine SureCall Force5 boosters and a slew of antennas distributed, some of which were moved around to overcome the apparent obstacles.

“The client is now very happy with the result of the project,” Hernandez says, noting that payment was held until “they were clear that we had delivered what they wanted.”

Lessons Learned

The Mountain Point Medical Center project was a critical one for The Repeater Store for a few reasons. For one, it’s a major Salt Lake City area hospital and the 220,000-square-foot project represented a nice opportunity for the integration firm.

It was also mission critical.

“They had just completed construction of the hospital facility and they needed to have a signal because they discovered, after the fact, that they was no signal in certain parts of the hospital,” Hernandez says, recalling the initial email from the hospital’s VP of IT.

“We dispatched a team and found that [the client was] very concerned and very under the gun. It was important to satisfy the service for the physicians and others. So we dropped a couple of projects to expedite the installation of this solution and dispatched a team within two or three weeks.”

As any integrator knows, expediting can often lead to problems.

The Repeater Store found that the floor plan it was supplied with didn’t cover all the details. “We asked them to identify metal walls, any metal construction,” Hernandez says.

Photos: Inside Mountain Point Medical Center

With a good floor plan, the site visit is “just to measure signals,” he says. “We discovered after we did the installation that our client was under duress” and neglected to point out some important factors. “Unbeknownst to us we discovered some rooms completed surrounded by firewalls and concrete, so we had to go back and put in additional antennas.”

It was rushed, acknowledges sales engineer Shawn Colwell.”The Sheetrock walls were the major road blocks,” he says. “We should have recorded those when the guy was on site. Then in the bottom floor some doctors in the radiology rooms weren’t getting signals and that was on the floor plan reflected as Sheetrock. Once our installer added a few more antennas that pretty much took care of it.”

Also, the expedited schedule left little time to manage the clients’ expectations. “The client, without really understanding how wireless signals work, was under the assumption they’d get five bars for every carrier and that’s rarely the case,” Hernandez says.

“Signals are dynamic. They have to go through drywall which diminishes. Our goal is to make sure calls can make a phone call without having dropped calls and to be able to send and receive data. We did accomplish that.”

Related: SureCall’s Force5 Wins CI’s 2015 BEST Award