Ask The Right Questions Around Telecommunications For Hospitals And Clinics

by Mark Wechsler | Arrow Systems Integration

The linkage between the telecommunication system and our customer’s operational requirements is often more than meets the eye. It is always necessary to ask the right questions to understand the real user requirements. Otherwise, it can be difficult, if not impossible to provide the right telecommunication solutions for our customers.

By way of example, I thought I would relate a recent customer experience.

The healthcare provider was constructing a large new ambulatory clinic. It will be located several miles from their main hospital. At an equipment manufacturer’s request, we became involved in the 11th hour. The available information was coming from one of our suppliers and their relationship with the customer’s telecom supervisor. The opportunity was described as a simple exercise involving a quick design, configuration, and quote using basic information (e.g., endpoint quantities, trunks, reliability needs).

Something seemed to be missing. Neither the equipment manufacturer nor the customer’s telecom supervisor was aware of any requirements outside of basic telephony service. Based on our experience we knew that ambulatory clinics typically require some unique communication services beyond simple dial tone.

Our sale executives arranged for a 30-minute conversation with the clinic’s Nursing Administrator so we could ask the right questions. We quickly explained that our interest was in assuring we fully meet clinic’s user requirements. We asked a number of leading and follow-up questions:

  • Q: Do the physicians work for the clinic?
    • A: Many doctors are not employees. They have attending rights at the hospital and clinic.
  • Q: Do you need to communicate with physicians outside of normal business hours and outside of the clinic?
    • A: The need exists and physicians will insist on using their personal devices.
  • Q: What are your plans for in-building wireless?
    • A: Some type of WiFi will be used. No thought had been given to wireless telephony or its advantages.
  • Q: Will you be conducting surgical procedures? If so, what nurse call system will you be using and is there a need for integration?
    • A: There will be a Medsurg department. A new nurse call system will be required. It must work with the new telephone system. The nurse call vendor has not been determined.
  • Q: How are incoming patient calls fielded?
    • A: The receptionist fields incoming calls. She is overwhelmed. One day last week, there were more than 400 calls.
  • Q: Will the clinic be scheduling patient appointments. How do you provide pre-op instructions? How are post-op and discharges follow-up
    • A: A centralized scheduling system will be used. Communication procedures must be defined for pre-op, discharge, and follow-up.

The Nursing Administrator had not thought of what we discussed nor was she aware of the need to consider it until we spoke. However, she quickly saw the advantages we could bring in terms of in-building voice/data capabilities, BYOD mobility solutions, attendant consoles, and automated proactive notification systems. Because we were able to ask the right questions, Arrow SI Healthcare Services assisted her to understand the link between the administrative and clinical requirements and the communications systems.

These types of discussions are not rare. Frequently the results are similar – the need is for far more than basic telephony. We only need to connect with the business owners and ask the right questions.

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