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Blessing Hospital Switches From Coax to Cat 5e

Blessing Hospital had an old coaxial distribution system that was long overdue for an update. Patients constantly complained about poor picture quality and the maintenance department was always busy handling service calls. Rather than rip out their old coax then replace it with new coax, they decided to upgrade and “future proof” by installing Lynx. The new system delivers cable TV, satellite TV, and in-house programming to 336 TVs.

After years of deteriorating tele-vision quality, Blessing Hospital in Quincy, IL, had to make a change. Patients were complaining verbally and in patient satisfaction surveys, listing poor picture quality, missing channels, or no reception at all, as major sources of aggravation.

The root cause of the problem was a 40-year-old coax cable TV network with hundreds of connec-tors; many with oxidation and leak-age issues, according to Ron Rose, Systems Control Specialist at the 403-bed hospital. The re-occurring results were weak signal strength, grainy or snowy pictures, and some televisions that wouldn’t receive all 14 available channels.

Rose was constantly getting service calls. But faulty connectors were hard to find, sometimes harder to get to, and even more difficult to fix. He was re-luctant to keep “patching up” the system and resisted recommending the expenditure of up to $150,000 to replace “old coax” with “new coax.” Ultimately, the hospital decided to upgrade the television infrastructure to a Category 5e cable network, using Lynx Broadband products to convert coaxial signals into signals that travel on twisted pair cable.

Home Run

"What I hear from patients and the public is that it’s such a great signal and it’s a really good, sharp, clear picture,” Rose said. “And patient surveys don’t list picture quality problems anymore.

"I also love the new TV layout," he said. "When I go to the IDF closets where the Lynx hubs are installed, there is a direct 'home run' cable from a port on a hub to a TV in a patient room."

The new system was designed and installed by D.M. Mattson com-pany, a full-line, electronic systems integrator. The system delivers 36 channels, more than double the number previously available, to 336 televisions in patient rooms and public areas on five floors of Bless-ing’s patient tower.

AdamsNet, a local cable TV, telephone and Internet provider, delivers 29 of the channels via fiber optic cable to the headend closet on the top floor of the patient tower. The hospital also receives two satel-lite channels, one in English, the other in Spanish, with programming for parents of newborns. The other five are in-house channels that provide programming on heart health, rehabilitation, chaplain services, patient information, and employee information.

RG-11 coax carries the signal from the headend to 10 IDF closets where it is amplified and distributed to several Lynx hubs. Altogether, the system includes 6 eight-port and 18 sixteen-port hubs.

Each Lynx hub splits the coax signal and uses RF baluns to convert it to balanced signals that travel on twisted pair cables. Special Lynx wallplates in patient rooms and pub-lic areas change the signals back to coaxial form before they go into to the televisions.

Lights Out

"The best way I can de-scribe our old coax system is to compare it to an old style string of Christmas tree lights," Rose explained. When one bulb goes bad, all the remaining bulbs on the string go bad, too. You can waste a lot of man hours chasing down the cable to find out where you lost the signal before you even think about fixing it."

Although medical systems, room décor and other patient conven-iences had been updated over the years, the original TV system was plagued by unbalanced signals, cor-rosion and bad connectors. "It was long overdue to be replaced," he said.

Blessing Hospital learned about the Lynx / Cat 5e network from Mattson, which has provided infrastructure, security, and TV work for the hospital for many years. "We heard them talking about patient satisfaction surveys reporting poor TV quality," said Dave Mattson, President. "So we started talking to them about prod-ucts that would solve the problem and future proof their infrastruc-ture for new technologies that use twisted pair cable."

Leap of Faith

As Rose remembers it, "Mattson assured us the Lynx/Cat 5e network would dramatically improve picture quality, and pro-vide attractive options for the fu-ture, like IPTV and pay-per-view. That sold me. My supervisors agreed and we decided to go with it."

The new system was completed in February 2010 and cost approximately $150,000, including all new Cat 5e cabling, the Lynx equipment, and exten-sive labor required to install the cable in an existing building.

"Our techs were working in an 18-in. high crawl space above the ceilings, where they squirmed along on their elbows to install the cable," Mattson said. "That was a real challenge."

The installers also discovered that some cable runs would be longer than the 90 meter, in-wall standard. "As a result, we added more IDF closets," Mattson explained.

Patience for Patients

Mattson said, "Another major challenge was the tremendous amount of daily communication needed to coordinate installation with the nursing staff. Patients had to be moved to different areas, so our techs could work in the rooms. Sometimes we simply had to wait for the patient to be discharged before we could get into a room."

Rose complimented their performance, saying "Mattson did a real good job. They came in early and often left late. They worked very well with the nursing staff, and minimized any inconvenience to the patients."

Perhaps most of all, Rose is pleased with the clear signal the new system delivers. "Our goal was to deliver a good picture to our patients, and that’s what we did," he said.

Besides delivering a clear TV signal, Cat 5e cabling future proofs the hospital for upgrades later on, such as HDTV, internet protocol television, digital sign-age, pay per view programming, Internet and e-mail access, and electronic selection of menu items.

For More Information

Blessing Hospital www.blessinghealthsystem.org

D.M. Mattson www.dmmattson.com