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Groningen University Medical Centre expands healthcare services

Groningen University Medical Centre expands healthcare services

CablingCase StudiesEducationHealthcareNetherlandsNetworkingTop Stories


UMCG’s data cabling dated back to the early 1990s and was due for replacement. After many years of faithful service, the cable’s 10 Mb bandwidth ceiling was struggling to cope.

CommScope solution:

SYSTIMAX® cabling was chosen for this project because of the quality and reliability of the SYSTIMAX Category 3 cabling, combined with the more powerful GigaSPEED® Category 6 cabling, taking of data transfer speeds up to 1 GB/s – more than enough to meet their current needs and address future growth.

Supporting “always on” functionality

End-to-end network availability depends on a number of factors. Cabling is one of them – a vital link in the communications chain. Given the nature and purpose of its work, UMCG’s network must be operational 24/7 to ensure continuous availability to electronic patient files and the digital images necessary for accurate diagnoses, treatment and operations. Since it operates as a conduit for all campus-wide Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools, the network was named AAN (or “ON” in Dutch). Although AAN was originally an abbreviation for AZG Area Network (the UMCG was previously called Academisch Ziekenhuis Groningen), it now reflects the strenuous demands and constant availability required of the network.

Since the hospital decided to create an all-new wireless network, the current cabling had to be able to support communications between all medical wireless equipment and the transition to IP for fire-alarm systems, the intercom, video conferencing, monitoring and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) -including the usage of free Wi-Fi by patients and visitors.

Therefore, in 2006, UMCG decided to increase network availability across the board. ICT and building departments compiled plans to tackle every aspect of the network availability chain on the campus from 2008 through to 2012. The plans included the upgrading of computer rooms on aspects of power and climate control. Uninterruptible power supplies were installed to bridge the time required for starting emergency generators in the event of a power failure. At the same time, network switches were replaced.

Simplifying cable replacement to protect patient safety

Bearing in mind the technical complexity of a hospital, the network update was a massive undertaking. To minimise the effects of smoke and toxic chemicals caused by a potential fire, the hospital selected the low-smoke zero halogen variant of CommScope’s solution.

Pieter Heida, Senior Project Leader of UMCG’s IT department, reflected on why safety during the implementation process was of paramount importance: “Improper replacement of data cabling in a hospital can significantly disrupt the patient experience, so we followed strict installation requirements -especially in areas where there is an increased risk of infection. In these wards, the cabling is only replaced after the area has been protected with fabric panels.

In some instances, suction systems are used. Over the past four years, we have updated 21,000 connections in the central medical complex and various wards. Another 5,000 connections are yet to be installed.”

Reducing migration costs via flexible solutions

“Selecting the new cabling was relatively easy,” explained Heida. “We chose SYSTIMAX® cabling again for this project because we were delighted with the quality and reliability of the SYSTIMAX Category 3 cabling we used over the past 10-15 years. Newer, more powerful GigaSPEED® Category 6 cabling allows us to take advantage of data transfer speeds up to 1GB/s – more than enough to meet our current needs and address future growth. We also selected the SYSTIMAX brand once again for its systematic, thorough installation certification process and 20-year application warranty.”

The hospital chose a cabling design based on consolidation points (ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B.1). According to Heida, this decision simplified the assembly process and made it less expensive, “Cabling in the old design has the disadvantage that, in the event of a change, the entire cable needed replacing. Now we have interconnection boxes in easily accessible places like corridors and run-offs to the areas in question. In the event of a change, we just replace or move the final section. This means greater flexibility and reduced costs for adds, moves and changes in the horizontal cabling system.”

Protecting prices and quality through long-term accountability

UMCG issued a European tender and four contractors were selected to perform the work. Key activities like cabling replacement and computer room updates were divided into sub-projects by time and location. Terms of reference were issued for each sub-project. Each contractor devised a bid for each sub-project. Electricians were chosen based on price and the quality of the work performed in previous sub-projects.

The contractors continued to compete with one another regarding price and quality while the project work was being implemented. Heida explained, “When we evaluate sub-projects, we review the quality of the installation, the collaboration with hospital personnel, how unexpected obstacles were overcome and overall agreement compliance.”

Improving productivity to enable optimal healthcare

From an IT perspective, Heida is proud of the future-ready network he and his staff have provided to UMCG, but there’s little time to sit back and pat each another on the back. “We’re seeing a dramatic improvement in communications speed, which is clearly helping improve the overall productivity and efficiency of hospital staff. But, as we approach the end of this project, we’re not resting on our laurels. We’re already hard at work on other corollary projects based on our new cabling infrastructure.”

UMCG is already beginning to replace its healthcare information system in conjunction with the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam – and recent developments in mobile devices and IP-based systems are revealing a host of new opportunities for other enhancements at the UMCG campus. With new cabling in place, Heida is eager to tackle the future, “Once you have the cabling, you’re half-way there. I am looking forward with confidence.”

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