Recently, a major NHS Trust in North West England carried out a network test on their critical care systems, including their Multitone critical communications solution, across 2 hospitals.

Their goal was to ensure its survivability during a service interruption to their core data network. The Multitone system worked as intended and, thanks to its resilient design with multiple redundancies, continued to deliver critical messages to staff on both sites throughout the test.

Though this comes to no surprise to us, we would like to use this test as an opportunity to explain why so many NHS Trusts rely on Multitone’s critical communications technologies 24/7, 365 days a year.

Why does resilience matter?

In an NHS Trust, Multitone’s communications system typically includes staff paging. This has a multitude of uses but is most importantly employed to alert and direct staff when a life-endangering event occurs, such as a cardiac arrest. Paging is a safe way of alerting staff in these time-critical situations as it provides full coverage throughout hospital buildings and is more reliable than Wi-Fi or mobile networks. In addition, pagers are durable, IP67 rated, have long battery lives, are simple to use and, importantly, impossible to ignore.

However, like most services in a modern hospital, this paging system does rely on a hospital’s network to operate, particularly for connectivity between two or more sites, which applies to the Trust in question. To ensure paging calls continue to be made if there is an issue with either a hospital’s local area network (LAN), or broadband connection with the outside world, the system is designed with diverse routing and duplicate, back-up components. This avoids any single point of failure preventing the system working.

This resilience is absolutely vital, because should critical paging cease to function for any reason, patients’ lives would be at risk in instances where rapid attendance and treatment is required for them to survive.

What did the test involve?

The NHS Trust has been a Multitone customer for many decades, and this contributed to their decision to update from Access 3000 to Multitone i-Message in 2018. The system has been working well ever since, but the Trust wanted to ensure that if there were any network issues, not only would the system’s built-in redundancies would work as intended, but staff at the Trust would be able to manage the situation and be confident in an unplanned loss of network scenario.

The test consisted of a 3-hour network outage to each site. In response, the i-Message system, which usually relies on the hospital’s LAN, instead utilised analogue lines and dial-up connections via the phone lines to maintain communications with the paging transmitter and between the two hospitals. With the support of Multitone’s support services (available 24/7, 365 days a year), staff were able to manage the situation and throughout the test, not a single critical call was missed from either site.

Although it was not the case for this test, if the two hospitals involved had been completely cut off from each other, each would run independently until the network could be restored, at which point the databases would resynchronise via LAN.

This multiple routing demonstrated in this test, along with backup hardware and the ability to run on backup power, ensures Multitone’s critical paging system continues to function in almost any scenario, even in times of regional or national crisis. Its this resilience that sets Multitone’s i-Message based critical paging system apart from other clinical communications options.

Paging is just one service facilitated by Multitone i-Message. It offers a hybrid, device-agnostic approach to critical and non-critical messaging and communications. i-Message can support smart applications, integration with third-party systems and a range of Multitone healthcare-focused solutions.

To learn more about i-Message, critical paging, and other Multitone solutions, click here to get in touch.