An Indispensable Role
Why single source technology integrations join during early phases of construction of hospitals and clinics
- By Jeff Elliott
- Aug 07, 2020
Today, there is significant increase
in the number of hospitals,
clinics and outpatient
centers that are being built
or remodeled across the
country, in part due to the rise in demand
for healthcare from an aging population
and more access to health insurance. To
accommodate this rapid growth, however,
requires a sophisticated level of technology
integration that goes beyond brick-and-mortar construction to the design
and installation of networking, communications,
electronic record-keeping and
patient/staff security systems.
As a result, the healthcare industry
is increasingly turning to single source
technology integrators during the earliest
phases of construction that can design,
install and manage an integrated package
of systems while coordinating with other
more traditional aspects of construction.
AN INTEGRAL WHOLE
Integration, defined on dictionary.com as
“an act or instance of combining into an
integral whole,” can be a somewhat vague
concept because the combination of parts
can be unending, while each individual solution
is specific to the application.
What is known is that the best integrators
are those that have an extensive
knowledge of the available products and
component parts of any system and are
able to connect them together in a manner
that extracts significant added value.
In other words, the “whole” [a properly
integrated system] should be much greater
than the sum of its parts.
In healthcare, with new construction
booming, integration has taken on new
meanings as well. To start, technology integration
in new hospital, medical group or
clinic construction now encompasses an array
of options from network IT and Wi-Fi access points, to access control systems, physical
security cameras, alarms, VoIP phones,
nurse call systems and environmental and
temperature monitoring – to name a few.
Then, there is integration of effort and
coordination with other aspects of new
construction when installing such systems.
THE GENERAL CONTRACTOR
Technology integration, it turns out, is not
covered under the umbrella of the general
contractor. That means technology integrators,
often hired by building owners,
must coordinate and integrate their efforts
with the general contractor and associated
plumbers, electricians, drywall installers,
painters and other tradesmen in a side-by-side
In addition, technology integrators often
coordinate with healthcare company
personnel tasked with overseeing specific
aspects of the installation, whether environmental
control managers, IT staff or
physical security experts.
In short, any integration – if not properly
coordinated, scheduled and executed
with accommodations for last minute
changes, etc. – can be a nightmare for
those responsible for managing the overall effort and all the contractors.
To avoid this scenario, healthcare companies
are turning to single source companies
that not only can handle the full array
of technologies, but can do so down to
the installation of the low voltage wiring,
cabling, conduit trays, wireless antennas,
hubs, electronic equipment racks and even
the locks on the exit doors.
“By working with a single source technology
provider that offers a menu of technology
offerings, there is an advantage of
having a single point of contact for overall
system design, installation, management
and support,” says Eric Brackett, President
of BTI Communications Group, a technology
convergence provider serving the
healthcare, logistics and aerospace sectors.
Brackett said that this can save healthcare
organizations significant time and
money in technology consultation, along
with saving “a lot of aggravation and
headaches” related to managing construction
Traditionally, voice, data, network and
physical security system purchases have
been made independently. Security cameras
and access control systems, for example,
are implemented by security integrators,
while VoIP phone systems are installed by
telecom providers. In this approach, each
vendor offers a proprietary solution with
little consideration as to how it will be converged
with other aspects of the network.
However, integration of these applications
during new construction or remodeling
can offer immediate significant revenue,
security, and savings to a healthcare
organization’s bottom line, Brackett said.
“If you go to a traditional vendor in
commercial security, VoIP or even IT, they
may try to interest you in products that are
currently promoted,” says Brackett. “It
might not end up being a fully operational
solution to the business problem they are
attempting to solve.”
“Some vendors may not comprehend
the full integration potential and so are
not able to go the extra mile to deliver
advanced functional capabilities that are
built into the system,” Brackett said.
For example, an access control system
can be integrated with the HR database
to coordinate changes in employee status
such as termination, to automatically activate
or deactivate an employee keycard.
If that same employee has remote access
to the security cameras, the network can
disable the account immediately.
Although technology integrators sound like a high-end service
with a commensurate price tag, that is not the case. An integrated
approach to IT with the best-of-breed solutions on the market
delivers economies of efficiency and scale that are often passed
on to the customer.
When engaging with a managed IT service provider, Brackett
says it is also important that customers know what they are paying
for with contracts that clearly spell out each installed product,
feature, and support item or service they are purchasing.
Technology integrators should bear the cost of providing
an initial assessment of their needs. The bid should itemize the
costs for equipment and support. The vendor should anticipate
future upgrade paths in order to provide transparency to future
expenses. In this way, a customer knows their initial, ongoing and
upgrade costs and can budget accordingly.
“Pricing transparency was a big factor in our telecom system
purchase decision,” said Brett Stephen, director of information
systems at Heart Care Centers of Illinois, a 5-center network of
cardiovascular clinics, who selected BTI as their telecom partner.
“In 14 years of supporting our telecom needs, we have not once
been surprised by pricing even as we have upgraded features and
added reporting tools.”
ONGOING IT MANAGEMENT AND SUPPORT
It is important to note also that the role of the technology integrator
does not end once the system is installed. Proactive
monitoring should be employed, so that the system actively oversees
technology performance to identify anomalies even before
a malfunction occurs. Problems are addressed proactively often
without the customer even knowing about it. When site visits are
required, the monitoring system dispatches an engineer without
interrupting the customer.
“Our 24-hour monitoring system sends me alarms by email,
text, and phone. I am always in the know whether I am at work
or remote, and I only have to deal with one vendor,” says Charles
Lomboy, Director of Physical Plant Management at Los Angeles-
based AltaMed, a 46-site health clinic network that serves
nearly 1 million patient visits annually. The company uses BTI
networks for CCTV, access control and burglar alarms.
With a proactive model, far fewer healthcare IT resources are
used. This minimizes the impact on daily operations
and enables an IT department to focus
on the core business rather than babysitting systems
for lower level network needs.
This article originally appeared in the July / August 2020 issue of Security Today.
Jeff Elliott is a freelance writer based in Torrance, Calif.