University Health Systems, TX Uses Z-Band for Patient-Satisfaction and High Definition TV
When University Health System (UHS), San Antonio, TX officials began planning to build Sky Tower, a million-square-foot hospital that would more than double the number of patient rooms, they were determined to create an environment that would help reduce patient stress by incorporating some of the comforts of home. As a result, the Tower which opened in April 2014 features green spaces, art, and comfortable private patient rooms where a patient can watch high definition television with his or her family.
“Every decision we’ve made has had the patient in mind, and at the heart of that is our patient rooms,” said Mark Webb, Senior Vice President, UHS.
UHS knew from the beginning that extending the hospital’s legacy TV distribution system into the new Tower was not a viable option. “It’s an older coaxial system. To add to it, you tap in wherever you can and then amplify and distribute to the TVs on that floor. It is a tap-and-go approach,” said Chris Arellano, of Walker Engineering, Inc. of Austin, TX, which provided network installation services for the Tower, “and any addition or removal of a TV on the old system requires system rebalancing, Maintenance is disruptive and expensive!”
Selection of a New Video Distribution System
The DataCom Design Group, LLC of Austin, TX was selected to work with the architects and develop the specifications for the project, so the project could be put out for bid.
Early in the planning process, Andrew Schmucker, a DataCom senior designer, recommended that the hospital use a video distribution system from Z-Band, Inc. “We had a couple of other hospitals in Houston that used
Z-Band, and they were impressed with features such as
Z-Band’s automatic signal gain and tilt control,” Schmucker said. However, some members of the UHS planning team were initially concerned. They had seen or heard negative things about other video systems that relied on twisted-pair cable for distribution. Those systems were passive and required manual balancing, similar in some ways to the old coax systems. Schmucker was familiar with Z-Band technology from prior installations and held a meeting to demonstrate Z-Band’s active signal conditioning capability. The planning team quickly realized the long-term maintenance savings and enhanced patient viewing experiences.
The Z-Band system uses the same twisted-pair cable used for a patient engagement portal, whereas a coaxial system has to run coax and twisted-pair cable side-by-side to every patient room. Patients can use the portal to watch videos about their physical condition and treatment or request services such as housekeeping. Z‑Band and the patient portal each use different pins on the same twisted-pair cable. “Z-Band uses pins 7 and 8 for video, while the patient engagement software uses pins 1, 2, 3, and 6,” said Henry Collins, Z-Band’s senior engineer.
In addition, use of twisted-pair cable gives a hospital more flexibility over how it uses its floor space in the future. “CAT 6A (twisted-pair) cable can be used for security cameras, wireless access points, and network connections as opposed to being limited to TV distribution,” said Arellano.
UHS found Z-Band to be the best fit for both the present and the future. “When a building must last for decades, you want as much future-proofing as possible,” Arellano said.
DataCom Design completed the final design and specifications, and when the Sky Tower was ready for cabling, Walker Engineering was brought in for the TV distribution system installation. First, the Walker team set up a new TV headend for a clean digital signal feed into a Z-Band GEN 4 “GigaBUD,” video hub with a built in single-mode fiber optics receiver. Using a fiber splitter, the signal was then distributed to the two wings. The fiber carries the video to the GigaBUDs set up as master video hubs located on the ground and fifth floors (the first floor of patient rooms) of each wing. From there, the video is carried vertically using a coaxial cable backbone to a GigaBUD set up as a satellite hub on each floor. The video is then distributed horizontally over twisted-pair cable to a GigaBOB (active balun) at each TV in every patient room.
Compatibility with Patient Engagement Technology
When the Walker Engineering team brought the patient engagement system online, Arellano momentarily panicked when he saw that the portal’s USB tuner stick created interference with the Z-Band video distribution system. His nerves were quickly put at ease with one five-minute call to Collins (who was on vacation at a beach). “Honestly, Collins told me how to correct the situation in less than a minute, but I spent four more minutes asking questions because I couldn’t believe it could be that easy,” Arellano said. “The Z-Band system is ninety-five percent plug-and-play,” Collins said. “But easily accessed options are available to customize an installation when needed.”
“I could have saved a lot of time and concern on this project if I had known how well the Z-Band technology worked,” Arellano said. “It seemed too good to be true, but it worked just like they said it would!”
A Full Campus Experience
Of course, the patient rooms were not the only locations at the hospital where video was required. High definition TV was also made available to the 35 operating rooms, the lobby area, and at the guard gate of the parking garage.
The rest of the hospital will gradually upgrade to the new digital headend as each wing of the original hospital is renovated, and eventually the original analog headend will be retired.
Because of the success at Sky Tower, UHS has selected the Z-Band system as its standard for new construction and renovations that involve TV distribution. As a result of the standard, the Z-Band system has also been installed at a new health center at another campus.