Wi-Fi comes to El Camino Hospital

August 7, 2008 8:07:47 PM PDT
The Silicon Valley will soon have one of the most technologically advanced hospitals in the world.

It has been three years since construction started, costing about $1,000 per foot to build the new state of the art, seismically safe hospital.

When it is finished next year, the 300-bed facility will replace the old El Camino Hospital. It will have the latest and greatest wireless coverage for doctors, nurses and patients.

"Whether we put them in elevators, move them from emergency rooms to the O.R. and so forth, they'll be able to have constant communications with the patients and equipment," hospital chief information officer Greg Walton said.

Miles and miles of cable are being installed into the shell of the building to saturate the hospital with wireless signals, eliminating not only cell phone dead spots, but also ubiquitous pagers. In their place, caregivers will have voice-activated, hands-free communication devices. Forty-inch LCD monitors will replace the old televisions in the patients' rooms and there will be laptops with Wi-Fi Internet service.

The wireless technology at El Camino was developed by the Defense Department. Among its first private applications was a Las Vegas casino.

"They have a lot of moving parts as well, whether they're customers or employees or chips they want to track," Walton said. "We have medical equipment and patients and caregivers we want to manage."

The 37-year-old hospital is being replaced because it is seismically unsafe. Most of the $480 million to build the new facility was raised through bonds. The seismic technology is as state of the art as the wireless technology; the electrical, medical, gas and fire protection systems are all braced separately.

"They are designed to move so that after a seismic event these systems will remain in place," project manager Matt Fardig said.

The doors of the new hospital are set to open in 11 months and they are wasting no effort or cost to meet the deadline.

"We're spending about $18 million a month and we're running about 480 people per day to make this happen," Fardig said.

Related Link:
The Back Story: Raising money for a high-tech hospital


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