Digital Signage for HealthcareMoving from foam board signs to a complete multi-user digital signage operation takes planning, training, and just the right software application for the job. Ben Pfeffer and RTS Unified Communicatio 12/27/2011 5:48 AM Eastern
Digital Signage for Healthcare
Dec 27, 2011 10:48 AM, With Bennett Liles
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Moving from foam board signs to a complete multi-user digital signage operation takes planning, training, and just the right software application for the job. Ben Pfeffer and RTS Unified Communications got the job done for Mt. Sinai Hospital, and he’s here to tell us how it all went, coming up next on the SVC Podcast.
SVC: Ben, thanks for being with me on the SVC Podcast and we’re looking at a digital signage installation that was pretty ambitious. We’re talking about the one at Mt. Sinai Hospital, but just to start here, tell me about RTS Unified Communications.
Ben Pfeffer: Well thanks, it’s great to be here. RTS really started as a full-service audio visual design integration company with a superior service department; we started on the service end about 15-16 years ago, which we still do great service, but we saw the AV convergence moving towards IT and all the integration that’s involved with that and we really made a concerted effort to stay ahead of that curve. So right now we’re doing full data center design, phone, premise security, building environment control; we do infrastructure cabling service and of course full AV design and build outs. [Timestamp: 1:37]
And that keeps you pretty busy I’m sure. Now on this digital signage installation at Mt. Sinai Hospital, what exactly was the goal here. What did they want to accomplish with this digital signage system?
Well I’ve been working with Mt. Sinai for close to 20 years, and they have various ways of communicating with their people, with patients, with people that are just walking through the building. Right now when you walk into the main campus building—I wouldn’t say now but probably a year ago, you would have seen 25 easels with foam board signs announcing speakers, upcoming training classes, events, flu shots—anything that any of the personnel walking by might be interested in and this was one of the ways they were communicating with all of their people. [Timestamp: 2:19]
And of course if you need to change anything on that, you’ve got to head to the print shop.
Exactly—the easel’s were cumbersome and the signs had to prepared, edited, printed, and then brought to the locations to be posted, and not only that but the coordination with every department that needed to get the information out, they were constantly chasing this information down and they had less and less time to produce the physical signs. [Timestamp: 2:41]
OK so that’s what they were replacing, so what did they want to do when they came to you. What were they in the market for?
We started on a very small scale. The hospital was one entity there, and the medical school—which is really one of the most prestigious medical schools in the country—they decided that they needed to get some information out to the medical students—first and second year students especially, their class changes, their information that they just needed to get to them. So we started off on a very small scale—three or four displays in a couple of the elevator lobbies that the students pass through every single day multiple times a day. So even though they change, the students would still walking by constantly and be seeing them. So we started with three or four displays, and we looked at Keywest Digital; at that time it was the MediaPod product, and we started this project about two years ago, and now we’ve upgraded just to the MediaZone, and we’re probably going to be upgrading this to a campus-wide InfoZone so they can control everything just from one central location—load all of the content from one location and control all the displays from one location as well. [Timestamp: 3:48]
That really makes things a lot easier. Obviously, there’s an initial infrastructure investment involved, but once you have the system in place and people know how to use the software, it changes things completely.
Absolutely, we can centralize what’s going where; the software is really cool because it’s relatively easy to learn—15-20 minute learning period and you’ve got stuff up and running already. [Timestamp: 4:12]
Is that pretty much why you went with MediaZone for the learning curve?
Yeah, absolutely. I needed to give them something simple—not that they couldn’t handle anything complicated, but when it comes to technology, if it’s easy to use people will use it; if it’s complicated but does a great job, it doesn’t get used. Difficult to learn is the thing that becomes basically a door stop or a boat anchor. It doesn’t used. [Timestamp: 4:36]
Right and I guess a lot of that depends on who is actually going to be operating it, but you probably know that going in once you’ve talked to the clients. You can judge for yourself the level of expertise there.
Well, exactly, and in the beginning we’re really talking about some administrators. We weren’t really talking about people with tremendous technology backgrounds with the exception of one or two people; almost everybody who is using it now does not have a technical background. They’re administrators and they’re really focused much more on creating the content, which is of course having digital signage is great but having digital signage without content is you just might as well just run CNN or PowerPoints up there and people will stop looking at what you put up there. You’ve got only a few seconds to capture people’s attention and this is the first thing—every time they call me into another department that wants to install digital signage—I would say, “Happy to install it, happy to get you the software, but until you start putting content together, don’t think about putting this in. Content is number one and whether you want to do it, you want to have Keywest help you with that, or you want to go to a third party, that’s your call, but you need to think about content first.” [Timestamp: 5:54]
Digital Signage for Healthcare
Dec 27, 2011 10:48 AM, With Bennett Liles
Right and how does Keywest Technology’s MediaZone perform as far as content creation?
The MediaZone product, in terms of content creation, it will accept any format of whatever you create. You have want to do PowerPoints, great. You have videos, great. You have RSS feeds, that’s fine too—it will accept all of that. The beauty of the MediaZone is it’s easy to use. It lets you to prepare your schedules of what’s going to run when and get it out over your network at times when your network really has the least amount of traffic so you’re not going to slow your network up. A lot of products with digital signage that are sent streaming on an ad hoc basis tend to slow the network down. The beauty of the MediaZone is you basically have an appliance that sits behind a display. You upload the information—the entire presentation with series of presentations, add a schedule of what’s going to play at what time, every day, every week, every month. You can set begin and end dates, which was really even a big problem to them even when they were doing manual signs. The event would pass and the sign would still be there. [Timestamp: 7:02]
Now they can set, you know, we have an event and it’s going to end on November 30; so December 1st at midnight, stop running that ad because it’s no longer valid. [Timestamp: 7:12]
You had to get people up and running with it; so did you provide training for anybody on this?
Well, in the beginning they did a lot of their own self training once the first person got trained. And Keywest was great with this as well: They have people online that will walk you through getting the first few installations going with the end users, but since we’ve deployed as many units, we probably have about 35 units right now deployed at Mt. Sinai, and there are plans to expand in 2012. We actually had a trainer come up from Keywest and spend a couple of hours there training some key people that will be using this down the road. We wanted to make sure they’re going to comfortable. And everybody was very excited about it. [Timestamp: 7:53]
Right, and the usual thing is they become the local gurus on it, and then they train the others.
Exactly, exactly. Once somebody sees that it’s easy to use, more people want to do it. [Timestamp: 8:03]
They see the finished product, and that’s a big selling point right there.
Most of the calls that we get now from other departments now are, “We want to do what obstetrics did or we want to do what orthopedics did or we want to what they did in the lobby of the Annenberg pavilions. From 65-, 70-, 80in. displays now, the sky’s the limit on what they can put out there. As the price of displays come down, doing digital signage becomes much more affordable. [Timestamp: 8:32]
And that always seems to be the case with digital signage projects. You have a little interdepartmental one-ups-manship after one department has seen what the other one is doing, they want to get on the bandwagon.
It’s not only interdepartmental; it’s other hospitals. Many of the doctors and a lot of the technology people travel to the various hospitals, and certainly the New York metropolitan area has many of the finest in the country, and they see what other people are doing and it’s a lot of, “We need to be doing that.” Because of this, we’ve actually gotten calls from other institutions who say, “We want to do what Mt. Sinai’s doing.” [Timestamp: 9:06]
So what are they going to do as far as expanding this? You touched on that before. What are their future plans for the system?
Well we’re getting involved now; they have an entire web development department that’s getting involved in terms of content creation for the digital signage. So what we want to be able to do is work with them—and we are working with them—in terms of roll outs of 8, 9, 10 at a time—10 additional units, and they’ll be rolled out as they determine where they want to put them. We’ll go in and do surveys in terms of the feasibility of where the hardware has to go, and the hospital then just has to provide power and a network connection and we’re ready to put them in. [Timestamp: 9:44]
Well, it sounds like they’re well on their way and you got them there. You talked earlier about how many things RTS has going. Are there any other big projects in the works for them right now?
In terms of our audiovisual business, there’s a lot of interesting things going on, but in terms of digital signage, there are two or three other medical facilities that have seen what Mt. Sinai did that we’re in discussions with now. So we hope to have pilot programs out with them in the next three or four months, and hopefully we can roll those into large projects as we’ve done with Mt. Sinai. [Timestamp: 10:14]
All right, well I thank you for being here. Ben Pfeffer from RTS Unified Communications and the digital signage project at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Thanks for telling us about it.
I appreciate it; thank you very much.
Thanks for joining us for the SVC Podcast with Ben Pfeffer of RTS Unified Communications. Show notes can be found on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at svconline.com. Be with us again next time for the SVC Podcast.