Michelle Soul and her team aren’t magicians, but their job is to make sure every computer, printer, phone and TV works like magic when Building Hope opens this spring. Soul is project manager for the information systems (IS) component of Building Hope. “Our team is working hard and everything is going well,” Soul says, “but this isn’t a job for the faint of heart.”
Right now the team is busy unpacking, distributing and configuring 8,000 pieces of hardware. Waves of equipment arrive every day and everything is set up the day it’s delivered because there’s no room to store it for setup later. Setup is just the beginning, though. “Anybody can plug a keyboard into a computer,” Soul says. “The challenge is all the programming that needs to occur behind the scenes.”
About half of the equipment that requires programming is pre-programmed. The rest is programmed after it arrives. Besides programming the equipment (everything except medical equipment), the IS team must program each of Building Hope’s 4,600 wall jacks to provide the correct network connection to whatever piece of equipment is plugged in.
The variables involved in deploying all this technology are a Rubik’s Cube. The right printers need to respond to the right computers. The right calls need to ring on the right phones. The right data – including sensitive patient information – needs to be available to the right people but only the right people. “There’s nothing cookie cutter about it,” Soul says.
A major task is already complete – creating the network backbone. The backbone supports 3,500 network switch ports that connect Building Hope’s computers through one of the data rooms that are located on each floor. Stuffed with stacks of servers, the data rooms are connected to each other and – through links to the hospital’s main data center – to data rooms elsewhere on campus and at other Seattle Children’s locations. Nearly 244 miles of copper and fiber optic cable – the distance between Washington’s borders with Oregon and Canada – tie the whole system together. “It’s like a huge spider web,” Soul says.
No project of this size unfolds without hiccups. Before Building Hopes welcomes its first patients, the IS team will work closely with doctors, nurses and other end users to thoroughly troubleshoot the system. “I know it sounds like a cliché,” Soul says, “but everyone on our team understands that failure is not an option.”