HITS team earns recognition for improving Michigan Medicine’s cellular coverage

By | June 7, 2024
Ben Crissman on stage at Cisco Live.

On June 4, the HITS Network and Communications team was honored with the CX Customer Hero Award for Exceptional Innovation at Cisco Live(link is external), a major conference in Las Vegas.

A panel of Customer Experience (CX) executives reviewed numerous submissions and chose Michigan Medicine as a winner. The selection was based on the outstanding outcomes achieved through their collaboration with Cisco Advanced Services (AS); a program that aligns Cisco architects, engineers, and product managers with customers. HITS, through its collaboration with Cisco AS, was able to continuously refine the operational performance of Michigan Medicine networks.

Managed by Jason Mishka, with both Ben Crissman and Nathan Haley serving as senior network architects, the team made significant strides in the early adoption of OpenRoaming technology. Mishka explains, “OpenRoaming is about connecting people; it’s a new technology that allows mobile customers to seamlessly connect to specially-configured wireless infrastructure. Ben and Nathan identified and researched the solution and saw an opportunity to use wireless to augment the cellular coverage in places where coverage wasn’t as strong or carrier coverage was not provided (T-Mobile).”

With OpenRoaming now up and running, employees, patients, and visitors with personal phones automatically connect to Michigan Medicine’s Wi-Fi – with no need to look for a public Wi-Fi network or scramble through device settings to connect, Mishka said. To date, more than 400,000 unique devices connected effortlessly providing patients and visitors with better overall experience, ensuring robust mobile communication, reliable calling capabilities, and even access to entertainment or social media.

“Obstacles in Michigan Medicine’s large buildings and energy efficient construction materials contribute to the lack of cell phone coverage,” Crissman explains. Crissman and Haley were both instrumental in the research, development, and testing of the solution. The team’s work focused on enhancing personal phone connectivity for patients, students, and staff who subscribe to participating network providers like AT&T and T-Mobile.This advancement has improved patient experiences, operational efficiency, and the overall technological capabilities within Michigan Medicine by reducing stressors around losing network access during visits.

One challenge tackled was migrating to new Cisco Catalyst Wireless Controllers, which proved to be a complex migration coordinating various software versions and feature sets across the network infrastructure. Ensuring compatibility and seamless integration required meticulous planning and execution to avoid disruptions to the wireless service. The new infrastructure is built for Wi-Fi 6 and 6E–wireless technology that offer faster speeds, greater capacity, and improved performance, especially in crowded areas. With the internal expertise and support from Cisco, the Crissman and Haley managed this transition with an uninterrupted wireless experience.

While OpenRoaming mitigated cellular coverage issues and integrated new technologies that benefit both patients and employees this deployment also brought about additional benefits like improved scalability with Wi-Fi 6E, better security, and enhanced ROI (return on investment) of existing infrastructure. “Cisco (brings) the innovations, like OpenRoaming to the product, and we (place) it into enterprise to make it helpful to people,” Mishka said.

During the Cisco Live event, Crissman accepted the CX Hero Award for Exceptional Innovation on behalf of the team, earning the recognition alongside Mass General Brigham, T-Mobile, Lowe’s, Gilead, BlackRock, Dish Wireless, and Defense Intelligence Agency. Additionally, Crissman was invited to give a presentation at the conference, highlighting how Michigan Medicine used the technology. HITS remains committed to driving creativity and excellence in healthcare technology, continuing to support Michigan Medicine’s mission of providing exemplary care, education, and research.

To learn more about the event, read the post Congratulations to the 2024 Americas CX Customer Hero Award Winners(link is external) on Cisco’s blog.