In response to the possible flow, and sometimes overflow, of COVID-19 patients, hospitals have set up temporary units in parking lots, stadiums and even cathedrals. In particular, the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and New York’s Central Park have all provided relief for local hospitals. All these temporary emergency facilities are vital for saving lives, but being separated from the main hospitals has made communications with the areas a challenge.
Like the other hospitals and clinics, Memorial Health Center in Springfield, Illinois, has set up triage tents and testing facilities to support the surge in patients. The hospital’s need for temporary connectivity was diagnosed by Jeff Hipchen, executive vice president at RF Connect, who worked, in collaboration with CommScope and Druid Software, to deploy a CBRS-enabled OnGo private LTE wireless network in the tents.
CommScope, which has been actively looking for ways it can provide communications support for people battling COVID-19, was brought in by RF Connect to supply its the Ruckus CBRS-capable LTE access points. These networks do not require power or cable infrastructure. Additionally, they can be set up quickly and include security measures required for health care networks. Temporary hospital triage centers are the perfect use case for OnGo systems using the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) frequencies, according to Steve Wimsatt, senior director, CommScope.
“It is fast and easy to set up,” Wimsatt told AGL eDigest. “With an access point on the side of the building, a connection can be made from the existing internal corporate network to Cradlepoint [routers] and MiFi [mobile Wi-Fi router] units in about 20 minutes. Existing Wi-Fi devices can easily use CBRS as a backhaul. LTE with its range and non-light of sight coverage is actually easier than Wi-Fi.”
The CBRS LTE-based private wireless network from RF Connect delivers high-performance, secure capacity to connect healthcare devices that are ordinarily enabled by the existing indoor network. The staff is able to use the same communications devices they use elsewhere in the hospital.
“Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, we had been building and deploying kits to demonstrate the wireless connectivity advantages of OnGo private networks,” Hipchen said in a phone interview. “It was a no-brainer to reallocate those resources to gain real-world field experience and, more importantly, play a role in helping our health care workers deliver patient care.”
OnGo, the industry name for networks utilizing the CBRS band, uses LTE communication technology over shared spectrum, allowing organizations to create their own private networks.
Hipchen approached Memorial with a rough diagram of how an OnGo network could be set up to bolster communications in the triage tents, and the hospital immediately agreed to the idea.
“The temporary wireless network which complements our existing wireless and wired network empowers us to appropriately focus our attention and resources on providing patient care,” said Jerry Miller, vice president information services, at Memorial Health System. “We’re profoundly grateful for the proactive offer from RF Connect and its partners to help.”
When Hipchen asked CommScope if it could provide an OnGo kit customized for the hospital’s communications needs, the OEM turned around and provided the technology solution 24 hours later.
“Working with RF Connect to provide Memorial Medical Center with much needed connectivity during this time aligns with our core values and mission to create connections that empower people,” said Upendra Pingle, vice president, DCCS in CommScope’s Venue and Campus Networks. “Now is the time to utilize every technology resource to help organizations that are on the front lines fighting this pandemic.”
The network at Memorial enables private LTE connectivity for CBRS-certified devices as well as Wi-Fi connectivity for non-cellular and non-CBRS devices.
In the meantime, another OnGo network has also been deployed by RF Connect in the triage tents at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.