First thing's first: Do you have reception?

By Brian Dolan
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AntennaCellular Specialties, Inc.'s (CSI) President of Custom Solutions Kelley Carr found the mHealth Revolution program at TEPR "fascinating", especially since it means hospitals will need companies like CSI all the more.

Distributed antenna systems like the one CSI integrates into hospitals will make it possible for hospitals to offer cell phone applications to their doctors by guaranteeing those doctors and wirelessly connected patients will be able to get a signal inside the facility. Carr said a recent survey showed 87 percent of enterprise workers admitted to probems with phone coverage in their buildings.

Carr also pointed to regulatory policies that he believes are in the pipeline for the next couple years that are going to mandate that first responders (firefighters, police officers, etc.) can receive coverage inside of commercial buildings. Carr also noted that a poor wireless signal inside a hospital could become a public relations nightmare: "The last thing you want to see in a newspaper is that someone went to make a 911 call inside your hospital and they couldn't."

PR aside, Carr said insurance companies generally lower their rates for commercial buildings who can show first responders that they will be able to communicate with each other in the case of an emergency inside the building. One of Carr's clients realized a 7.5 percent drop in insurance rates immediately. 

Carr also harped on another in-building wireless issue that hospitals have dealt with for years: The problem of interference with existing medical equipment. While Carr did not wade too deeply into the contentious issue he brought up a valid point: A better in-building signal means the cell phone does not need to increase its power to send out a stronger signal to look for connectivity. A lower signal emission brings about less interference, Carr indicated. 

Here are Carr's tip for in-building distributed antenna system deployment:

- It takes up to 6 months to deploy a DAS from beginning to end once you get approval from hospital

- Bring the wireless carriers onboard immediately. This usually requires walkthrough with a rep from each of the major wireless carriers.

- Be sure to bring the hospital's IT manager onboard immediately, too. (Carr had one client whose facilities manager assured him there was plenty of fiber on the grounds to support the DAS, while it turned out there was zero fiber on the premises.)

- Get the union reps involved.

- Determine who pays: Hospitals pay in full or carriers pay for some of the equipment.

- Don't count out leasing the equipment, more and more hospitals are leasing because of the economic climate. 

- Finally, Carr has seen hospitals install DAS systems because younger, talented doctors and nurses find it very difficult to work in an environment with no reception--whether or for work or personal calls. Some hospitals are just using it as a retention and loyalty measure.

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