Monument Health delivers optimal patient care with an Aruba Unified Network

Monument Health upgrades network with Aruba for evolving healthcare needs to help enable exceptional patient care.

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, has announced that Monument Health, a community-based, integrated healthcare system headquartered in Rapid City, South Dakota, has completed the first of its three year comprehensive network overhaul, replacing its previous equipment with an Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform)-based infrastructure, to help enable exceptional patient care.

Monument Health offers care in 33 medical specialties, serving 20 communities across western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming via six hospitals, eight specialty and surgical centers, and more than 40 medical clinics and care centers. To enable its 4,500 plus physicians and caregivers to make better decisions and access critical information from wherever they work within the organization, Monument’s IT team knew that its ageing network infrastructure had to be replaced.

Stephanie Lahr, MD, CHCIO and Chief Information Officer and Chief Medical Information Officer for Monument Health

“To capitalize on real-time data collection and communications, and to ensure that vital information won’t suffer from delays or disruption due to poor network performance, it was clear we needed a more modern and mobile-first approach,” said Stephanie Lahr, MD, CHCIO and Chief Information Officer and Chief Medical Information Officer for Monument Health.

While the IT team considered replacing its existing equipment with newer versions of the same, they quickly realized that the network had to become a foundational building block that would help meet the needs of their evolving healthcare system.

Said Lahr: “With the availability of real-time information, advancements in IoT that will necessitate connecting and tracking new devices, the push for more mobility, and the need to provide more consumer-centric facilities, the network had to become a unified foundation for these critical and still-evolving capabilities.”

Working with partner WrightCore for planning and implementation, Monument Health outfitted its new Heart & Vascular Institute building with an all-Aruba infrastructure, and began a three-year roll-out of Aruba solutions across all of its other facilities, starting with its flagship hospital in Rapid City.

Monument is installing Aruba CX Series core switches in its two data centers, followed by Aruba Wi-Fi 6 access points and CX Series access switches across all locations, as well as ClearPass for network access control and policy management. In addition, the new Heart & Vascular Institute will utilize Aruba Location-Based Services to enable wayfinding in the facility.

Evan Grosz, Director of IT Technical Services for Monument Health, said his team is excited about the greater performance and reliability of the Aruba infrastructure, but even more so about the time savings.

“The simplicity Aruba delivers saves substantial administrative time for our IT team,” Grosz noted.

ClearPass was another key factor in Monument Health’s decision to choose Aruba. Grosz and his team are eager to use ClearPass’s fingerprinting and automatic classification of devices, to replace what was previously a time-consuming and manual process.

Grosz said: “Being able to configure and fingerprint a device like a printer once and then have all of the same devices automatically placed into the appropriate segregated VLAN is huge.”

The new Aruba network supports Monument Health’s key healthcare applications such as MyChart and Epic, but even more importantly, it enables new, cost-saving applications like Voice over IP for nurse communications – something that was impossible with the previous network infrastructure due to performance and reliability issues. In addition, Monument Health is using Aruba Location-based Services in the new building, adding Aruba beacons and a mobile app, to enable wayfinding.

“Since we weren’t able to have a grand, in-person launch, the wayfinding capabilities were helpful to get both staff and visitors acquainted with the new building and help patients find their way around,” said Grosz. He added that the IT team will look to expand their use of wayfinding in other areas of the hospital and across their entire campus in the future.

Said Lahr: “Having a modern, unified network foundation is a game-changer for Monument Health that will allow us to adapt quickly to a rapidly evolving healthcare environment and ultimately, set new standards of care for our patients.”

We asked Stephanie Lahr, Chief Information Officer and Chief Medical Information Officer for Monument Health, further questions to find out more.

Why was it necessary to undertake a complete network overhaul at your company?

There’s a multi-layered answer to this. We were at a point where the technology we were using was basically at the end of its life and needed replacing – that’s the easy answer.

The more detailed and complex answer would be to ask why we made a shift in the vendor partner that we had and what were we really looking for beyond just doing a one-to-one replacement for what we had in place?

The networking technology has evolved a lot over the last several years and within the healthcare spectrum everything that we’re doing today is technology-centric. 

The network is the highway that everything has to run on and so it was a very important decision for us to really dig into how the technology had evolved to start to support a heavy IoT landscape where basically anything and everything may be connected to the network.

We asked how do we manage that traffic and how do we manage the security of that? As we put the different aspects together and started to look at the landscape of who was out there and what was happening from an innovative perspective in those areas, we really felt like Aruba was the partner that was going to take us forward because we know as we move forward with other technology investments, we had the best sort of foundational structure to move ahead with.

How important is good network performance to the operation of your business?

Essential. If I can’t deliver the tools we are using to people, they aren’t worth anything. So it’s absolutely essential that the network, both the wired network and the wireless network, are reliable and sit in the background – a ‘set it and forget’ it as the end-users would think – but it’s really highly technical to make sure that we’re giving the appropriate bandwidth to each item and doing hierarchical management and things like that. We really can’t deliver care these days without technology and that technology is all riding on the network.

How is the Aruba network allowing you to capitalize on real time data collection?

One of the great things that we have available through Aruba is some monitoring that allows us to be able to understand the traffic that’s happening on the network in real time. We can actually set automated tools to do some of that for us as well, because one of the other things that we’re all facing is staffing challenges and an inability to have all the right people all the time to be doing things manually for sure.

So we’re looking for partnerships in networking and really all across the spectrum to make sure that we’re leveraging partnerships where there’s automated tools, and to an extent and whenever possible AI and algorithms built in the background, so that we can have the people that do work for us doing the highest level thinking and having the system do the lower level easier pieces of that and only getting our people involved when we really need to. So those were absolutely elements that we were drawn to.

How has the network given you a push for a mobile first approach?

I think our underlying infrastructure is central to again getting people to buy into the idea that we’re going to fully leverage technology. Once that foundation is there, in terms of the mobile element Wi-Fi is everything right now.

During COVID, our nurses’ use of mobile devices for scanning medications had an even higher level of interest because we found ourselves using mobile devices in situations where we weren’t before. Because we could leave them in a patient’s room or we could create a communication strategy, that wasn’t so dependent on somebody being in the room but it did mean a device needed to be there and without the connectivity we can’t make that happen.

One of the other things that we’re looking at is, for example, monitoring with video and audio devices that monitor patients from a safety perspective.

Those have to be connected all the time and we do sometimes move those because a patient who might need to be monitored isn’t always in the same place. And so those devices have to be able to move, we need to know where they are and they need to remain connected to the network.

So everything we’re doing right now is mobile in a traditional sense, but also mobile more from an elasticity perspective. We might need to change a room into a more ICU level room, and by leveraging mobile tools we can bring elements into that room that may not stay there permanently. Again, all we have to do is bring them in, connect them to the network and we’re off and running.

Can you outline the benefits of ClearPass for Network Access Control and Policy Management?

When I talked to my networking team ClearPass is probably one of those pieces that was the deciding factor for them – that was what they were looking forward to the most.

Again we have an on-going increase in the number of things that we’re connecting to the network – all kinds of things across the entire spectrum whether they’re monitors for temperature in refrigeration, our air conditioning units or our lights.

The more of those things that are on the network, the more difficult it can be to be able to really understand what is on it right now and what risks they pose.

So ClearPass was a real game changer in our ability – to be honest this is the first time we’ve ever really known what’s on the network because we have that visibility through ClearPass and then when you combine that with the opportunities at network segmentation we really have a lot more control.

One of the other things we struggle with in the healthcare industry is a lot of the operating systems that our medical devices use are not super current. This means that they, in some cases, don’t have all of the security measures in place that we would really like to have.

We have to keep using those systems but we need to be as secure as possible, so through a combination of knowing what’s where, and then being able to segment the network so that those pieces that may be higher risk are not sitting in a more vulnerable position with other things. It really has given us a lot more confidence and security, and in our ability to prevent breaches and things like that.

Can you tell us about clear passes fingerprinting facility and automatic classification of devices?

This is something that we’re just beginning in our journey with Aruba and in our rollout of ClearPass so we’re still identifying exactly how all that’s going to play out but it is amazing to see how the system starts finding things for you. And that’s been really exciting and I think sometimes for the team it’s even a little bit startling to have the system telling us ‘I’m also seeing this’.

Can you explain how your Heart & Vascular Institute has been utilized in Aruba location-based services to enable wayfinding in the facility?

During the pandemic, lots of things moved forward which we needed them to do, but they had to be done in a different way. We were opening a new several story addition to our hospital moving our Heart & Vascular Institute on to our hospital campus, so that those patients and those providers had easier access between the hospital where their procedural areas might be.

We were opening essentially a new building during the pandemic. Our normal process for opening a new building in our community would be to invite the community in to show them around and to really help them, in a concierge kind of way, understand the new lay of the land and where they need to go because like with anything new, it brings with it some complexities and the reality was with COVID, we couldn’t do that.

We couldn’t have people standing at the door, waiting to take you from place to place. We couldn’t do the same kinds of meet and greet opportunities to share with people what we had created. So that team and one of the cardiologists came to me and asked is there something that we could do that would be a replacement that would help the community become more familiar with our space and navigate it more easily, knowing that we’re not going to have human wayfinders because of COVID.

So this was a very late addition to our Aruba project in an already pressured timeline and I went to my team and the Aruba team and said: ‘I have a last minute request, what can we do here?’ Because of the infrastructure that had already been put in place with our Bluetooth beacons and things like that, we were from an infrastructure perspective ready, and it was a new building, so in a relatively short period of time we were able to create an app that we could showcase and share with our patient community. This told them: ‘Hey if you’re coming into our new building, we may not be  working with you in the exact same way but we have tools here for you to be able to figure out where it is you’re going’ and it was well received.

I will say it’s not the most highly utilized app that we have but it demonstrated that we could definitely do this and our patients started to become more aware of the idea that we’re going to be delivering things to them more and more through mobile applications that they are going to be able to interact with us on and so it was a great stepping off point into some of that kind of technology.

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