Care Facility Protects and Empowers with Secure Wi-Fi
The Phoenix Residence, founded in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1974, is a non-profit organization comprised of 19 care facilities, all committed to providing quality living experiences for individuals with disabilities. For Alan Berner, VP of Community Services at the Phoenix Residence, supporting the evolving needs of his staff has been vital to their continued delivery of quality care.
“About 7 years ago we made a purposeful decision to invest heavily in new technology,” reflected Alan. “We were previously doing a lot of our work through paper records – all of our documentation and staff coordination was done there. We have since transitioned to where we are now doing all of our payroll, scheduling and medication processing through electronic, subscription-based platforms, which has really helped make us more efficient. For example, when we made that transition with our payroll, we went from tabulating time cards manually to utilizing an automated process. It saves our personnel one whole day’s worth of work every two weeks. Those freed-up resources have allowed us to handle some of the workforce issues that are prevalent with disability services, to devote more time to the complex needs of the people we support, and to provide better programming outcomes and training support to our staff on the frontlines. So from that standpoint, by investing in new technology we’ve seen excellent gains in terms of being more efficient and able to handle our workforce more effectively.”
However, the Phoenix Residence was well aware that the move from paper to electronic medical records was not without its risks, and that the necessary safeguards would need to be addressed. “Certainly our exposure has increased, because we’re now doing so much of our work through an electronic mechanism. But that’s where the WatchGuard products came in.”
With the secure processing and storage of sensitive patient data to account for, the Phoenix Residence chose to deploy WatchGuard’s Firebox T30 firewalls throughout their 19 Minneapolis care facilities. With strong throughput and built-in security, all of the T30 units have been further reinforced by the addition of WatchGuard Total Security Suite subscriptions. The suites combine powerful subscription services like APT Blocker and Threat Detection and Response to stop and remediate advanced malware attacks, an all too common threat to any facilities that process electronic medical records.
Because staff require Wi-Fi access for mobile devices, WatchGuard AP120 access points were also deployed. “We’re doing all of our documentation around care needs and medications through electronic processes that often rely on the Wi-Fi, so for us it becomes critical that our uptime be the overwhelming majority. With other products we’ve used, the Wi-Fi comes down all the time and can be really difficult to bring back up, sometimes even requiring IT to come out and do it. Now, with the WatchGuard APs, we have a very stable Wi-Fi environment. It’s reliable, and that’s been a big deal for us.”
“Our experience with the WatchGuard appliances just continues to get better and better. We’re able to securely access our server, we’ve had better uptime, and without the WatchGuard units we’d be risking serious exposure of valuable data. But because our systems have been architected this way, it’s not a prevalent concern for us. We know that’s it’s something we’ve addressed and we have the right solutions in place.
“With the wireless access points, though we added them for business operations, there was a side benefit of being able to provide more extensive wireless coverage for the people we support where there wasn’t before – there’s a huge space for growth in this. For example, one person uses Alexa (Amazon’s digital assistant) for quality of life purposes. She controls her lights with it, and even has it read her stories. Without being able to use that device, she could not do those things independently. We’ve been discussing integrating more of these devices in other areas of the residence so that when she’s not in her room, she can still have those functions, and some of the other people in the home would be able to utilize them as well.
“For a lot of the folks that we support, having access to these technologies allows them to do more for themselves, when before they would need to rely on a care provider. For a care provider to come support you, you need to first place a call and then wait for the response, when it could be something as simple as needing your light on or off, or even just changing the channel on your TV. You think about when you watch TV at home, how much you change the channel – what if you had to ask someone to do it every single time? It becomes a frustrating and inconvenient experience. Having a solution to those types of everyday challenges has a big impact. For us to have the infrastructure in place where people can access a Wi-Fi network that’s reliable, and have stable access to the Internet, that’s huge. Those little things that we all do on a daily basis, that are a normal part of our lives – we can create opportunities for the people we support to interact with that, instead of missing out on so much of what’s available.
“We’ve had great results with the WatchGuard appliances. There’s a reliability and a trust there that we’ll continue to follow.”