Helping Horder Healthcare deliver a unique brand of patient care.
For over 60 years, Horder Healthcare has been providing outstanding orthopaedic surgery and musculoskeletal physiotherapy from locations in the south east of England. A dynamic and leading healthcare provider in the orthopaedic field, as well as the owner of a renowned hospital for plastic reconstructive and ophthalmology treatments, the charity seeks to provide outstanding patient care with quality-driven outcomes in a safe environment. In order to achieve this, Horder Healthcare relies on critical IT systems. The network infrastructure at each site needs to be robust, scalable, and secure while conforming to the highest standards and best practices.
“We have four sites in Sussex, including The Horder Centre in Crowborough, The McIndoe Centre in East Grinstead and physiotherapy clinics in Eastbourne and Seaford,” said David Griffiths, IT Operations Lead. “Whether we are carrying out reconstructive surgery in one of our hospitals, or helping patients recover from sports injuries at one of our coastal sites, high levels of IT connectivity and network resilience are essential. All our healthcare professionals need ready-access to clinical information systems including patient records, X-ray and MRI. In addition, it became clear that visitors, patients and staff needed reliable Wi-Fi connectivity.”
Like many growing businesses, the IT infrastructure had grown over time and created several challenges. As more complex IT systems were procured it became apparent that the underlying infrastructure could not provide the levels of performance and resilience required. “Our network was really feeling the strain. Parts of it were approaching end of life and with so many different types of kit, it had become increasingly difficult for our in-house team to maintain,” explained Chris Patterson, IT Projects and Service Lead: “We knew we had a number of risks around the network equipment but didn’t have a managed service contract in place.”
Aside from being able to reliably run the existing services, Horder Healthcare had an eye on future change too. “To deliver the best patient care, our 3-year strategy includes bringing in new digital innovation including AI, video conferencing and in-room entertainment,” added Chris. “The current network wasn’t designed for our ambition-level and we knew it wouldn’t cope. We wanted to upgrade the network and put in place solid building blocks for the future.”
The Horder team needed a proven network partner and approached other healthcare providers for a referral. “We spoke to several local NHS Trusts and Ideal’s name kept coming up,” said Chris. “It was clear Ideal had the right certifications and skill base, but it was also very reassuring that they understood the healthcare sector. From the very first meeting we knew they were the right Managed Services Provider (MSP) for us.”
To get a good grasp of what needed to change, the Ideal team performed technical LAN audits and wireless site surveys at the two hospitals. The purpose of these was to assess the current state of:
- The network design and its suitability to Horder Healthcare’s requirements.
- Adoption of industry and vendor best practice.
- Network robustness, scalability and performance.
- LAN security and network segmentation.
- LAN manageability / simplicity.
- Wireless coverage and capacity.
The audits flagged several critical risks including issues with the logical and physical network topology, network switch vulnerabilities and single device dependency. To address these, Ideal proposed an intent-based network and Horder chose to start with the Cisco LAN phase first, then the Meraki wireless. The new network design would improve the speed of connectivity as well as address the security risks and single points of failure.
“Ideal is highly skilled at managing change. Our lead engineer was CCIE qualified and was both tenacious and methodical. Most system changes kicked off after 6pm and finished in the early hours of the morning and the delivery team was always focused and committed,” said Chris. “We also needed early life support as users started testing first thing in the morning. Nothing was too much effort for the team.”
In addition to the upgrade, Horder Healthcare selected Ideal as the network MSP. Chris stated: “As part of the implementation we were hugely impressed with Ideal’s network knowledge, and we just didn’t have this capability in-house. On a 24/7 basis we needed expert eyes on our network, and Ideal was the obvious choice to be our long-term network partner. We really do see them now as an extension to our team.”
“From a support perspective, one of the aspects I love about Ideal is that they know exactly who we are, and what’s important to us,” added David. “With other suppliers you can disappear into a black hole, but our lead engineer has an in-depth understanding of our estate and we really feel they’ve got our back. In addition, Ideal has a brilliant approach to socialising project work into the support team, so handovers are comprehensive, and nothing is forgotten.”
In 2018 Ideal implemented the secure, managed network. This provided the essential building blocks for Horder Healthcare including:
- Improving uptime and self-healing.
- Ensuring there is capacity where needed.
- Improving performance.
- Faster provisioning.
- Reducing time-to-fix for support incidents.
- Enhancing security and containment of malware risks.
“By addressing the single points of failure and configuration standards, we’ve not only addressed our immediate security risks, but bolstered performance and resilience too. We now have a stable, secure, supported network to support us now and in the future,” added Chris.
The biggest benefit for David’s operational team of five is that they can focus on strategic projects that benefit the wider business: “We’re in completely safe hands with Ideal and don’t have to worry about the network. Their monitoring is excellent, and they even pick up and start addressing issues before we are aware of them. My team is freed up to look at what can improve and transform the business.”
One of the innovative services Horder Healthcare wants to introduce is video consultation, and due to the pandemic, this need has been accelerated in 2020. “Our 2021 strategy effectively becomes our 2020 execution! We want to offer this form of consultation to patients especially as it may be some time before our healthcare professionals get back to hands-on work, and the network fully enables this,” said David.
“Supporting social distancing measures also means staff may need to physically be in different parts of the building than before. A couple of years ago, we would have found it extremely difficult to make this happen and give staff the secure access and coverage they need. Now, with our improved network, we can embrace new ways of working,” concluded David.
A Rapid Response to Covid-19
While the Horder team was laying the groundwork for innovative change as part of their wider strategy, what they didn’t expect was Covid-19. Within a short space of time, their infrastructure was put to the test.
The McIndoe Centre in East Grinstead, a specialist plastics, ophthalmic and reconstructive centre with 4 theatres and over 30 rooms, is based on the same site as Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (QVH). The McIndoe Centre typically deals with elective plastic surgery patients, but within a few weeks of the pandemic the team was asked to take on trauma patients from QVH and operate 24/7.
At the time, these were two separate networks, and the Horder team had to quickly rally key resources to make QVH systems securely available at The McIndoe Centre. QVH surgeons needed access to patient and internal systems and to be able to use iPads from anywhere in the building. “It was all hands on deck,” commented Chris. “Within 24 hours we had all the vital technology partners engaged on extending the network.”
Ideal stepped up to the challenge and provided network, security advice and guidance. Within 7 days a network link was installed – including physically digging up the road - and The McIndoe Centre began receiving trauma patients.
“Had we not had the base infrastructure in place, we wouldn’t have been able to layer the network on top and support QVH in this way,” acknowledged Chris. “This was the fastest implementation ever but shows what can be collectively done in a crisis. Ideal supported us brilliantly throughout – they were fast, flexible and accommodating, and showed real network leadership.”
About Horder Healthcare
Horder Healthcare is a leading independent healthcare provider working across Kent, East and West Sussex, delivering high quality care for both NHS and private patients. As a charity their key purpose is to advance health, providing outstanding orthopaedic surgery and musculoskeletal (MSK) physiotherapy and services from their hospital, The Horder Centre, in Crowborough and other locations in the south east of England.
Nationally recognised for its level of surgical expertise, patient satisfaction and hospital environment, their therapeutic centre has achieved an ‘outstanding’ CQC rating and provides high patient outcomes for hip and knee replacements and other orthopaedic procedures.
They also provide a range of specialist services from The McIndoe Centre, the renowned private hospital in East Grinstead, West Sussex.
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Header image ©Horder Healthcare