The background.

Founded in 1994, Patientline is committed to providing innovative services for patients, which include access to patient records, a TV, radio, telephone, Internet access and email—all at the bedside. Today, Patientline works in partnership with the UK National Health Service (NHS) Trusts to deliver a range of solutions designed to reduce the workload for hospital staff, and thereby improve patient care. Patientline is the market leader for the provision of communication and entertainment services to the NHS, and holds one of only five full licences to provide Patient Power services.

Patientline ensures that over 8 million patients have access to bedside TV, radio, Internet, email and telephone services in over 100 hospitals across the UK.

The project.

While accepting that the clinical treatment received by patients in hospital must be of the highest quality, it is increasingly recognised that the environment in which the patient is treated can play a significant role in their recovery. In fact, this environment should allow patients to have access to everyday facilities.

According to The NHS Plan (Section 4.19 and 4.20), published in July 2000, the aim of the Patient Power project was to make "Bedside televisions and telephones available in every major hospital by 2004"

To help it deliver the electrical, data cabling and fibre-optic networks that support Patient Power communications services at the bedside, Patientline work with a small number of specialised companies, including Black Box.

The challenge.

The installation of communications networks in a hospital environment poses several challenges:

  • To shorten the installation time so that services can be provided to patients faster, and that Patientline can achieve a faster return on investment
  • To reduce the space and energy consumption of the control-room equipment
  • To meet the hospital's infection-control requirements, including staff protection and the clinical cleaning of the bedside units
  • To meet the ever-changing regulations for asbestos management and electrical testing in public spaces
  • To provide structural-support solutions for newly developed bedside monitors

The solution.

Patientline chose to work with Black Box because of its ability to deliver consistently high-quality support across the whole of the UK. Black Box evaluated the needs of each location and submitted network-design proposals that addressed the main challenges.


These proposals promised:

  • Lower cost of materials and 20% faster completion times
  • A 40% reduction in control-room energy consumption and costs
  • Improved control of access to the equipment racks, which in turn improves resilience and uptime

Black Box established site-installation teams with the relevant electrical installation and testing skills to coordinate the installations, and also appointed highly experienced project managers with proven abilities to oversee each phase of the deployment.

As a result, the number of visits to each bedside, for installation and testing of data and electrical cabling, could be reduced. The Black Box NHS Liaison Manager took responsibility for coordinating activity directly with NHS management to keep the project on track. This included the design and build of the control room—a significant gating factor in each network.

Black Box was able to work quickly to shorten the on-site installation period and, consequently, accelerate time-to-value for each deployment.

Patientline has welcomed us as a partner, and values our ability to positively challenge the 'status quo' at every opportunity. We've jointly developed new implementation processes and cost-reduction initiatives, together with new products and installation methods that allow us to work faster on site and shorten completion times, lower costs and improve network reliability.

Black Box is extremely happy to be involved in this important social project with Patientline and have welcomed the challenges involved. Our success has highlighted the diversity of our services and our rigorous approach to project management in a difficult installation environment. David Higgins UK M.D, Data Services
Our key challenges are to continually drive quality improvements across our hospital installations and to reduce implementation times and costs. Black Box has enthusiastically demonstrated a willingness and capability to assist us with this from day one. The hospital environment is a difficult one, demanding due consideration of many factors; for us, the true measure of a successful partner is one that can manage these issues on our behalf, and also deliver the productivity results we demand. Black Box has achieved this. Mark Anderson Installation & Support Director

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