PEORIA — The tech crews at OSF HealthCare face a formidable challenge early in the approaching year — or, more specifically, in a seven-hour window that opens once the ministry officially takes possession of two properties.

At 12:01 a.m. Feb. 1, the deal between OSF HealthCare and Presence Health officially closes, transferring ownership of the predominantly Chicago-based system's two downstate hospitals — Covenant Medical Center in Urbana and United Samaritans Medical Center in Danville — to the growing Peoria-based network.

The moment of the transfer also starts a clock that OSF HealthCare's information technology department has been anticipating for months: Along with a small army of volunteers, the full-time technicians will simultaneously replace the entire IT systems at both hospitals with the goal of having each system up and running by 7 a.m. the same day.

"From a safety perspective, we can't disrupt service for patients," said James Mormann, chief technology officer for OSF HealthCare. "We have to set up and configure everything so that it matches our systems and the infrastructure of those buildings."

The process already has been months in planning, with the new systems for each hospital — all the computers, cables, tablets, switches, routers, printers and every other piece of connected tech necessary to make it all work together — in place at OSF HealthCare's new facility at the old L.R. Nelson property.

Crews have practiced hauling in each system on shrink-wrapped carts, assembling the components and testing the system within the seven-hour window, with priority status assigned to the devices critical to ongoing care of patients at the hospital during the transition.

"When we get onto a nursing unit, we've got to do our best not to disrupt patient care," said Casey Messenger, project manager for OSF HealthCare's network team. "When we're done, everything will be up to code — we're upgrading literally every system, from the fiber coming in from the street to new circuits."

That level of preparedness has come from a highly detailed plan that started with building blueprints to create maps of each hospital's technology and the infrastructure that supports it.

The new systems created from those maps have components already accounted for and labeled with the specific location of their new home, twice in some cases. To eliminate as many chances for confusion as possible, each end of more than 2,000 cables have been labeled for their exact destinations.

"Because of the sheer volume of what we're putting in — one of our units is 1,400 devices — we want it to be right the first time it goes out," said Adam Hinderliter, a client device services technician at OSF HealthCare. "Everything is set up to be deployed in the most efficient manner possible."

That setup includes elimination of one source of frustration and waste: packaging. Components have already been removed from boxes and organized on rolling carts according to their destinations, with one or more stainless steel shelving units on wheels for each floor or data closet.

The technicians produced videos to train hundreds of non-tech hospital employees on how to interpret the labels on each piece of equipment and correctly install it.

Yet once the job is done, it may not be the last. Mormann said OSF HealthCare is looking at spinning off the expertise gained from the experience into a separate business and offer IT system switching services to other hospitals and businesses.

That prospect has a larger window of development, beginning at 7:01 a.m. Feb. 1 after the marathon of planning in Peoria and sprint of installation in Urbana and Danville has concluded.

Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.