Meru Networks provides hospital wireless LAN access for NJ's LibertyHealth System

The provider of 802.11n enterprise networking platforms claims that its "secure, virtualized" WLAN solves instability problems of legacy wireless platforms.

Meru Networks, Inc., a provider of 802.11n enterprise networking platforms, announced that New Jersey's LibertyHealth has deployed Meru Networks’ wireless LAN (WLAN) solution in its hospitals to provide facility-wide wireless access to staff, patients and visitors.

Installed in 2008 in the Jersey City Medical Center (Jersey City) and Meadowlands Hospital (Secaucus), Meru says its wireless LAN solved the wireless infrastructure instability problems that LibertyHealth's IT department had been grappling with for years. According to the company, the hospital can now provide the reliability essential to a wide range of wireless applications, including bedside patient registration, video-based translation services for non-English-speaking patients and supply inventory. The WLAN also supports a "public" network for patients and visitors, which for privacy reasons is segregated from the rest of the WLAN.

Meru’s WLAN replaced the legacy wireless network in the emergency department that had been performing unreliably – often inoperable beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Fridays and throughout the entire weekend. "We had no idea why this was happening, but we wanted to fix the situation while also expanding bedside registration beyond the emergency department and adding new wireless applications that would require seamless roaming,” says Michael Verna, technical support manager, LibertyHealth. “Of the wireless vendors we looked at -- including our incumbent switch and router vendor -- only Meru offered to install a pilot network. The weekend that the Meru WLAN went up was the first time that we didn’t receive complaints from the emergency department – all of our coverage issues had gone away.”

Verna admitted he was initially skeptical about Meru's "virtual-cell" approach, which the company says departs from the legacy "micro-cell" approaches of other vendors by assigning all access points to a single channel rather than placing neighboring APs on separate channels, which often leads to co-channel interference.

"I didn't really believe it would work, but I plugged in an AP, walked away and within minutes it was up and I had a full RF signal," Verna recalls. "During implementation we handed the installation process off to our cabling vendor; they mounted the APs and set up the antennas, and we were able to verify operation on the Meru console as each AP came up. For a small, resource-constrained IT shop like ours, this simple installation and management is great. With other vendors we would have had to go and configure every single AP on site. With Meru we can just set all the configurations on the controller, plug in the AP and go."

Meru maintains that its approach also reduced costs. "We started out thinking we'd need 170 APs and ended up getting the coverage we needed with 20 percent fewer units," adds Verna. "The end cost of the WLAN came in at about half of what other vendors proposed."

"As hospitals depend increasingly on wireless for critical communication and documentation, it's imperative that the network be stable and reliable,” offers Brad Johnson of Atrion Communications Resources, the Branchburg, N.J., integrator that worked with LibertyHealth on its WLAN deployment. “Meru's virtual-cell architecture is able to handle a huge influx of users signing on at the same time. We tried to 'break' it ourselves and failed, so we knew it wouldn't break at the customer site. Meru not only solves LibertyHealth's WLAN stability problems, but it's completely plug-and-play: if more coverage is needed after initial installation, the hospital's IT team can easily install additional APs on their own."

LibertyHealth's future plans call for adding wall-mounted Ergotron wireless units that support Emergency Department Information Manager (EDIM) systems, which document patient encounters and track patient movement and progress throughout a hospital visit.

On the Web:www.libertyhealth.org; www.merunetworks.com

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