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Lower iPad Maintenance with PoE Solution Design

Organizations are investing in new digital technologies to deliver better experiences and results at lower costs. However, there are risks to a technology solution’s return on investment (ROI) when it is unreliable or if it requires excessive maintenance support. Two major questions you need to answer when adopting a new technology solution are: 1. How do we best integrate the solution with our network infrastructure for optimal connectivity? 2. How do we ensure ongoing maintenance of the device is practical and cost-effective? This article provides insights on how HSJ helped remediate design issues with an iPad deployment in a hospital by reevaluating the answers to those two questions.

When adding technology devices into a hospital setting, ROI is typically achieved by improving patient experiences and clinical outcomes or by reducing the cost of care. Solutions that deliver a positive impact with less user effort than the current process are adopted the fastest. Conversely, unreliable or operationally cumbersome solutions will have painfully slow adoption and can also create risks in patient, visitor, and staff satisfaction.  In this scenario, our client had iPads installed outside of patient rooms to serve as real-time patient awareness screens that guide care teams with details about how to best treat the patient and their family without violating HIPPA regulations.

The intent for the iPads was great but there were issues stemming from the original design. The original design mounted the device flush on a wall and required a 110 V AC power outlet for a charging brick at each station. Costly wiring and conduit needed to be installed by a certified electrician to support each power outlet and the device relied on a wireless connection to communicate with the network. Wireless network connection for the iPads would sometimes get lost during routine software updates and the iPad would have to be put through a factory reset to resolve the issue.  When these outages occurred, care team user adoption began to slow and their confidence in the reliability of the new technology started to erode. At the same time, another issue surfaced as support teams tried to fix the iPads. Troubleshooting the devices was labor intensive, requiring disassembly of the millwork cabinet the iPads were housed in (shown in Figure 1) to initiate the factory reset or replace the charging stations. The design had to change to enable reliable functionality of the devices and to alleviate the maintenance burden for support teams.  

HSJ was able to design and engineer a solution to the issues they were facing from the iPad connectivity errors. The updated design removed the charging transformer and 110V AC electrical outlet and replaced it with a 40V to 12V PoE (Power over Ethernet) converter and ethernet cabling system. This technology design simplified the cabling process and eliminated the need for conduit, electrical outlets, backboxes, and circuit breakers to support the iPad. By transmitting power and data over one ethernet cable, costs are decreased and the connection is significantly improved. The solution was evaluated and approved for implementation by the facility’s IS department.

The design and engineering improvements allow the hospital to take advantage of the iPad technology’s benefits in an operationally sustainable manner by leveraging PoE technology. The hospital’s IS team can now treat the patient awareness iPads as a standard data node on their network with the ability to remotely access the devices for maintenance updates and troubleshooting. The tedious task of disassembling and removing entire cabinets to access a single device is no longer required.

The improved reliability and streamlined device maintenance and support processes resulting from the design change improved device usage and availability while reducing operational support costs. Innovative technology solutions for improving patient care and efficiency must be designed and integrated meticulously to deliver on their ROI.  Our team of system designers, engineers, and project managers is available to assist on your project.  Please contact us for a consultation or to discuss any questions you have about our work. 

Figure 1: iPad mount with millwork location in hospital

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