St George’s Heathcare Trust

Summary

St George’s Hospital has partnered with Purple and Softcat to install a new guest WiFi network for patients, staff and visitors.

St George’s Hospital is one of the largest hospitals in the UK and the main site for the St George’s University NHS Hospitals Trust. Across the Trust, more than 9,000 staff serve a population of up to 3.5 million people in South East England. Home to one of the busiest A&E departments in Britain, St George’s features regularly on the RTS award-winning documentary: 24 hours in A&E.

457,330

All time visits (Dec '18 - Jun '19)

203,419

All time users (Dec '18 - Jun '19)

Custom

splash screens for pain-free WiFi access

The challenge

NHS Digital, the national technology partner to the health and social care system, launched an initiative to make it compulsory for all NHS sites across England to have a fully functional, and compliant WiFi service in place for patients, staff and visitors by the end of 2018.

The new WiFi platform would have to comply with strict criteria set out by NHS Digital in terms of functionality, resilience and security. Ideally, it would also integrate seamlessly with St George’s existing infrastructure and be capable of being set up in a short time frame.

The solution

Chris Adams, Head of ICT Operations at St George’s said: “Given the highly visible nature of what we were implementing, we wanted to make sure we got it right the first time. We reached out to a number of different vendors, including our existing WiFi service provider, to examine potential solutions. It was effectively a mini tender process, with vendors being scored against 13 questions to understand the capabilities each potential solution provided.”

St George’s contacted Billy Smith, Softcat Account Director, who with the help of the wider Softcat team, carried out an extensive market evaluation of potential providers. “Following a thorough analysis of multiple options, we decided the cloud-based offering from Purple, an award-winning provider of WiFi solutions, was ideal,” Billy said. “It delivered the security, resilience and functionality specified by NHS Digital, and it could be implemented within the tight schedule and budget available.”

“Once we received all of the proposals, Softcat’s recommendation to install a solution from Purple ticked all of the boxes,” said Frances Williams, Operational Support Manager. “None of the others could deliver the high levels of service and operability we wanted for the new platform.”

A cloud-based solution was preferred as it would enable St George’s to further leverage its existing Cisco wireless infrastructure and bandwidth. As well as driving down project implementation costs, the solution could be quickly and simply installed as a software overlay and still provide the extensive information capture, handling and security governance capabilities required by the NHS Digital criteria.

The Purple-powered solution would enable free WiFi service users to be quickly and simply authenticated onto the network, as well as ensuring strict filtering is in place to prevent access to unauthorised content. The built-in enterprise-class reporting dashboard provides deep insight into user metrics to help simplify management and deliver a full overview of user activity. It will also enable individual NHS-branded splash pages to be embedded in the service for communicating essential healthcare information.


“Softcat and Purple ran an on-site demo to highlight exactly what the solution would deliver,” said Chris. “Once we’d seen what it was capable of and understood the potential it held for introducing innovative services further down the line, we were confident it was the right solution for our needs.”

The benefits

“The solution was implemented with barely an issue,” said Chris, “and although the basic service is great, we know there’s so much more that can be achieved further down the line. The main driver for the introduction of free patient WiFi access has always been to improve the patient / visitor experience. We know that allowing internet access on mobile devices helps people stay in touch with friends and family at what can be a stressful time, as well as helping to reduce feelings of isolation for those undergoing treatment.

“We also realise, however, that the solution provides the capacity to deliver easy access to information about services, support networks and even clinic waiting times in the future. A WiFi working group has already been established to explore what is possible from a clinical and communications perspective – we’re sure there is so much more we can achieve and Softcat will continue to work with us to realise the solution’s full potential.”

St George’s can tailor exactly what type of content is available through the service, as well as being able to fine-tune the information users have to provide when logging in. In the future, the platform will support targeted health messaging based on the demographic information voluntarily provided by the service user. Customisable splash screens can also be used to deliver a range of other information, including NHS-branded communications, Anti-Smoking campaigns and more general health advice.

Free patient WiFi will also make it easier for patients and their families to provide essential feedback on the care they’ve received. Currently, a manual form is used to capture this information, but with easy access to an online form, it’s just one of the processes that can be streamlined and improved as more functionality is added.

“We have a bi-weekly conference call with NHS Digital and they have commended us on the success of the project,” said Frances. “We knew it would be a challenge to get the service up and running in such a short timescale, but Softcat and Purple provided everything we needed to make the deployment a success. They hit the deadline and managed to bring the project in under budget as well.

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