Next generation messaging to improve reception

Washington University School of Medicine and BJC HealthCare, in partnership with Sprint, are building a new network of reliable messaging and voice options for the medical center.

The network is expected to debut in early 2011 and include dedicated cellular antennas throughout the campus to eliminate poor reception zones.

“The No. 1 improvement will be better phone reception,” says Randy Branson, director of information systems for anesthesiology and psychiatry at the School of Medicine. “Then we can leverage technology improvements for even more effective and reliable communication across the campus.”

The goal is to eliminate the loss of important messages because of poor reception or network outages. Participants will be able to use new Sprint messaging devices to:

  • send, receive and respond to text and voice messages on one device and instantly determine message urgency
  • use unlimited, faster device-to-device text messaging
  • send or access messages off campus — anywhere there’s a cellular signal
  • ensure message receipt with text messages retransmitted by the Sprint network periodically over an extended number of days until the message is received
  • have an option to verify message delivery status

Current American Messaging pagers will be replaced, but devices and service plans will be determined by individual department needs.

“I think this solution will integrate our communication systems and eliminate some of the hardware our people have to carry around,” says Cindy Schaus, Barnes-Jewish Hospital clinical operations coordinator. “Our clinical leadership is also excited about ensuring coverage throughout the campus, including basements.”

The network will be supported by the Telecommunications Facilities Corp. (TFC). Established in 1984, TFC is a joint venture between BJC and the School of Medicine to provide innovative voice communication, technology service and support. TFC partnered with Sprint to create the dedicated campus network.

TFC opened a customer center with a Sprint retail store on the Washington University Medical Center campus in August 2009. For more information, go to or visit the TFC Customer Center, Room 2211 on the CSRB link.

By the numbers

  • The 794 antennas supporting the new system, called an in-building wireless network, is the biggest project of its kind in North America and one of the five largest to date in the entire world, says Abu Sayeed, Sprint project manager for the installation.
  • When all 39 buildings are outfitted with the small ceiling-mounted antennas, clear cell reception and elimination of dropped signals will provide text-based communication for about 7,000 Sprint messaging device users on the academic campus currently using American Messaging pagers.