Volunteers from HITS upgrade technology at Ronald McDonald House

July 5, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees

Over the past three years, a group of volunteers from Health Information Technology & Services — or HITS — has completely upgraded all technology services at the Ronald McDonald House of Ann Arbor (RMH-AA), a valuable resource for thousands of families with children requiring critical and essential medical care.

Many HITS staff members generously donated their time and skills to make the improvements. HITS student interns also supported website and marketing upgrades, as well as audio and visual technologies during the annual Ronald McDonald charity event. Much of the necessary funding came courtesy of the Mott Family Network.

RMHC-AA has served more than 21,000 families since opening in 1985. Most patients stay at the Ronald McDonald House for approximately two weeks, though some may stay for several months. 

The overall value of the donation from the Mott Family Network is comparable to covering the cost of 5,000 families staying at RMH-AA and the ongoing savings is comparable to 500 nights for families every year.  

Improvements to RMH-AA provided by HITS include:

Networking and computing

Beginning five years ago with the laying of fiber under the road between RMH-AA and C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the Mott Family Network has transformed networking and computing at RMH-AA. A new network connection was designed and installed by Jason Mishka, Howard Williams, Nathan Haley (and Haley's son who helped install antennas), and Josh Castro. Castro led the efforts to update the in-building wiring and, just as importantly, he secured donations for some of the wiring and installation.

Kim Kelly, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Ann Arbor said the improvements are invaluable: “Our goal is always to provide everything a family needs when they stay here. Internet and Wi-Fi have become more and more important, and our guests need to be able to communicate with family members at home.”

With the availability of the Michigan Medicine network, RMH-AA was also able to utilize CoreImage workstations. The Medical Center Device Support team set up and continue to support the workstations, which greatly improved the technical environment for the staff, allowing them to be on the same platform as the rest of Michigan Medicine.

IP security cameras and security oversight

An outside vendor donated security cameras and worked with the Michigan Medicine Security Access Control Group to install the cameras at multiple points throughout Ronald McDonald House. The cameras have improved the safety of the environment for both guests and staff.

Tablet and iPad lending station

The Mott Family Network worked with Dell to donate a number of tablets to RMH-AA. The tablets are useful for families who do not have a computer with them but need access to the internet. The tablets are available through a lending station and include popular apps plus games.

Xbox game service

In 2015, the Medical Center Device Support team outfitted Ronald McDonald House with Xbox 360 video game systems. Each system allows patients and families to play games, watch DVDs, listen to CDs, and connect with family and friends outside of the hospital through online gaming.

Digital signage and board room display

The HITS Digital Workplaces team installed two digital signs in RMH-AA. One sign is in the main lobby and provides updates to guests and visitors, including information on dinner, house activities, recognition to donors or guests and more. A second system was installed in the board room, which allows for videoconferencing for board members and trainers. The new digital display provides high quality and effective presentations for prospective donors.

“Both signs have been a huge help to us,” said Kelly.

Phone system and service

The most recent technology improvement to RMH-AA has been an upgraded phone system. The Mott Family Network worked with Sentinel Technologies to donate 45 phones. Chris Cole and Keith Reid coordinated the replacement of the old phone system, working with RMH-AA staff to optimize workflows, identify needed features and bring RMH-AA into managed service agreement for phones.

All guest room phones are now reachable directly and are equipped with personal voicemail that families can use to create a custom greeting. Additionally, the paging system was modernized, the overhead PA announcements were updated and a menu system was added to the main phone number.

Kelly emphasized the importance of the upgraded phone system. “The new phone system benefits families calling in, social workers making calls to help our patients, businesses trying to contact us and much more.”

Before the technology upgrades, RMH-AA was decades behind in terms of technology. They were using extremely old systems and outdated equipment because every dollar they raised was prioritized for families and making sure they had what they needed.  

“Having the Mott Family Network come in and update the technology has been a huge support to everyone at the House. Because they handled the technology, we could do what we do best and focus on the families. It has been an absolute pleasure to be able to work with everyone,” said Kelly.