Last week you read about Reno, Nevada’s Renown Health’s recent upgrade to Cisco Catalyst products including switches, access points, and controllers. When I spoke with Dustin Metteer, IT Manager at Renown Health, he also explained that they’ve developed new safety protocols for COVID-19 and have built out tented testing centers and new field hospitals to support a potential influx of patients from across the state.

No visitors, no problem: filling the gap with technology

With strict protocols to ensure the safety of all in its facilities, no visitors are allowed at Renown Healthcare hospitals. Patients are often quarantined by themselves for extended periods of time and can get lonely. To help combat this loneliness, the hospital purchased hundreds of Apple iPads and handed them out to different departments to allow patients to communicate with their families.

Something I didn’t discuss with Dustin, as it didn’t make any difference in their decision to offer this gesture of kindness, is Cisco’s wireless partnership with Apple. Cisco and Apple have partnered to provide a better overall wireless experience to end users and IT managers, and this equates to better connectivity for users and improved troubleshooting data for engineers to solve issues faster. A win for all. Read more about the Apple and Cisco Wireless Partnership.

Standing up testing sites and field hospitals

For hospitals across the world, COVID-19 has meant preparing for a worst-case scenario should they move beyond capacity. To provide safe testing away from the main hospital building, Renown Health started with a single parking lot tent testing site. To connect the tent to the hospital network and its applications, Dustin and team ran a fiberoptic cable out to the tent, plugged in a Cisco Catalyst 9300 UPOE+ switch and instantaneously had connectivity and 90 watts of power per port for Cisco IP phones, Cisco access points, and a handful of desktop computers, with room to add more. This has now been replicated multiple times as needed across their other hospitals and urgent care facilities in the system.

The Big Ask

Following the initial rollout of tented testing centers, Dustin received a call about building out a temporary field hospital.  As Dustin explains, “We got a big ask, they wanted us to convert our parking garages into field hospitals.” This ask included designing a network for a facility that could house up to 2100 beds to care for those infected with COVID. If you’re familiar with a modern hospital room, you know they include lots of connected devices for monitoring, alerting, and communicating with staff. To support this need, the final design consisted of Cisco POE switches, Cisco access points and wireless controllers, and Cisco IP phones. The deadline: two weeks.

With not much time to make this happen, Dustin pulled together some spare equipment, mapped out and designed the network, and worked tirelessly to get the hardware deployed, software updated, and all his policies set. He had 14 days but completed the task in just 10. And while Dustin was working on the network side of things, he didn’t forget to give a shout out to the construction crew and electricians, and especially the Army Corps of Engineers. “They wrapped the entire garage, inflated it, brought in HVAC, all kinds of stuff, just great work.”

Repurposing old equipment gets the job done

The network that Dustin deployed in the parking garage includes five Cisco Catalyst 9300 UPOE+ switches and 30 Cisco Aironet 3702 access points. Giving a nod to his appreciation for the latest gear, Dustin says, “We had to use what was available quickly. I would’ve like to have used the Catalyst 9120 AP’s but we had to make do with what we had.”

Because Renown had recently gone through a refresh at several of their hospitals, they had equipment on hand that was already spun and ready to go. This made the job go a lot smoother and reduced network equipment expenses for the field hospital.

Renown is continuing to support COVID patients and as the disease ebbs and flows, the hospital will adjust its facilities and do its best to make space available to care for its patients across the state. This might include adding new field hospitals, testing sites, and other areas to support patients and staff during the pandemic.

Soapbox time

In closing, I’d like to say that I can’t wait for this horrible disease to be done and over with so we can all get back to our regular lives. That said, I find the work we do together as humans inspiring, especially when we work together for the betterment of mankind. Hearing Dustin’s story gives me hope: to hear what’s possible, to hear that a parking garage can be converted into a fully functioning hospital in less than two weeks, to know we will get past this pandemic and that technology will help play a major role. I’m an optimist, I’m also logical, and I know that it will take a lot of work, dedication, and an enduring effort to get us back to where we once were.

Check out last week’s blog about Renown Health’s LAN Upgrade: How Cisco beefed up an existing network.

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Brett Shore

Product Marketing Manager

Enterprise Product Marketing