The Moral Case for Unified Communications

by Andrew Prokop | Arrow Systems Integration

Source: No Jitter

Like many people across the world, I was enthralled by Pope Francis' visit to the United States. I smiled at the images of him in that tiny black Fiat and listened intently to his speeches before the United States Congress, the United Nations staff, and the United Nations General Assembly. While I am not a Catholic nor an overly religious person, his message of justice, fairness, and global stewardship appeals to me.

Personally, I don't believe that religion has anything to do with wanting to make the world a better place. Good people approach a virtuous life from many different directions. In fact, the Pope said as much when he spoke these words:

    "And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much."

The chances are pretty good that the people who are reading this article are not doctors or nurses. We do not perform surgeries, repair broken bodies, or comfort the sick. Neither are we social workers who dedicate our lives to helping the poor and mending fractured communities.

We are men and women in the communications industry. We design hardware and write software. We stand before C-level managers and evangelize IP telephony and conference bridges. We roll up our sleeves to lay cable and install servers.

And yet, the fruits of our labor are present when those more noble acts occur. The products we create and sell are in operating rooms and inside nurses' pockets. They are in the hands of fire fighters as they battle wildfires in drought ravaged California. They are on the PCs of emergency responders coordinating disaster relief efforts.

Are you familiar with the expression "door-to-balloon?" You are if you work in cardiac care. Door-to-balloon (D2B) is the time it takes for a patient to enter the door of an emergency room until he or she receives percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), such as angioplasty. Current national guidelines for D2B recommend that it be no greater than 90 minutes.

In 2006, a cardiac care facility in South Florida gathered a team of experts to investigate ways to address D2B and they came up with the following plan:

  •     Review present process step-by-step for each department involved.
  •     Review how the emergency department (ED) is notified.
  •     Review how the ED notifies the interventionist and catheterization lab.
  •     Perform a literature search to obtain evidence-based practice guidelines.
  •     Contact other facilities in the area to see how they are meeting the goal.
  •     Interview staff members and obtain their input and suggestions.
  •     Organize an action committee to address the problem.
  •     Present all of the above information to the members and obtain feedback.
  •     Identify and make changes to reduce the time and meet the goal.
  •     Discuss potential failures that could occur with the new process.
  •     Educate staff and perform mock alerts.

It's hard to read that list and not see how communications can play a big part in lowering D2B time. Any time I see words such as "notifies" and "alerts," I think unified communications and communications enabled business processes (CEBP).

Thankfully, I am not the only one who sees that, and recent efforts have created better and more productive ways to communicate between the various teams involved in a cardiac emergency. Paramedics are identifying and calling in heart attacks from the field. The patient placement process has been streamlined with better forms of communications. These and other changes have allowed D2B times to drop from 90 minutes to as low as 67 minutes. Fewer D2B minutes lead to more saved lives.

For a concrete example of medical communications in action, take a look at what the folks over at Extension Healthcare are doing. Their Extension Engage product uses unified communications to alert healthcare professionals of what they need to know at the time they need to know it.


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