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● Tactical Operations

Options to

The need for

reliable and sustained communication is never more important for a healthcare facility than during a time of crisis. With over 1,000 certified communications professionals, Sprint Emergency Response Team (ERT) supports the planning, implementation, execution and evaluation of your facility’s disaster drills and field activities during a crisis. Sprint ERT also offers an inventory of equipment to ensure scalable and robust communications for facilities during any catastrophic event. With a Sprint ERT Go-Kit, a robust tool containing a cache of Sprint communication devices and mobile broadband cards, healthcare facilities can be assured that wireless devices and IP services will be ready at a moment’s notice regardless of the emergency.

Comcast Business owns and operates its fiber-based network, which is completely separate fr om

traditional phone carrier networks. The Comcast network covers 39 states and is serviced directly by Comcast 24/7/365. It gives healthcare providers another option for network connectivity. Having multiple connections allows healthcare organizations to establish redundant paths to the Internet. In the event of a disaster, this redundant connectivity can keep a healthcare provider connected to its business continuity/disaster recovery facilities for access to medical and patient information, and to help with regulatory compliance. Within the Comcast network, there is extra redundancy built into the network design to maximize availability.

20 February 2014

the hospital has similar processes in place to manage surge situations. We have teams for communication systems, labor pool, medical staff , facilities management, counseling, security, etc. Each department has emergency readiness action plans established to handle any surge that may take place.

So, in your opinion, there is an area of need in the industry in terms of providing interoperability?


Absolutely. I wish that I did not have to write interfaces between dis- parate systems. I wish someone else would do that. Although I enjoy it, my time could be better spent doing something else.

While interoperability is an issue, is it diffi cult to fi nd the types of servers, switches and routers that you need in the event of a disaster?

No. We generally go mainline with most of our equipment. We use Cisco, Microsoft, Dell and HP for much of our technology due to the wide level of support off ered by these vendors. T ese devices and technologies are confi gurable and portable if necessary. In the case of a disaster, these are the technologies we would depend on for business continuity.

Can you provide an instance where a new product in the fi eld caused you to alter your plans?

Sure, infusion pumps are a good example. T ese pumps are used to administer patient medication on a regular interval. We have recently added Real Time Location (RTLS) tags to our pumps. Let’s say during a disaster there is an emergency in the ER where they need 20 ad- ditional infusion pumps, and we need to locate these pumps quickly. Our real-time location system allows us to quickly determine the number and location of infusion pumps that are not in use. We can make that determination instantaneously and get the needed devices to the ER right away. In the past, we had to look for pumps that were not in use by

searching on foot. T e RTLS system changes things. No longer do we have to waste valuable time searching for important equipment during a time of crisis. Due to the RTLS system, we have been able to alter our older plan for managing equipment during a disaster in favor of a new, more effi cient plan.

If you could speak directly with the vendors about your needs specifi c to making plans to maintain your network infrastructure during a disaster, what would you say?

Well, several of us have spoken with a number of vendors about this point. I hate to say it, but most of them are not willing or able to help us with many of the challenges we face. As I mentioned before, we spoke with two or three diff erent vendors over the course of several years and asked them to provide a method of printing out patient records when power is lost to our information systems. T ey said it was not possible. Of course, we now know it is possible because we found the solution to this problem and implemented the solution on our own. T e best way for vendors to determine what hospital technologists and administrators need in the way of disaster recovery is for them to walk a mile in our shoes. T ey need to observe our drills and simulations to see for themselves the real life-and-death issues we face. T at is the only way I know of that they will ever truly understand our challenges in preparing for disasters.


Rick Drass is Manager of Information Systems at Sarasota Memorial Health Care System in Sarasota, FL.

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