Forget About the Bright Shiny Object

Mark Wechsler

The media and trade rags buzz daily about the latest mobile app and devices. If taken out of context you might think that PCs and laptops are antiquated. Everyone in the healthcare community seems to be caught up in the hype associated the potential for smartphones and tablets.

Worse yet you may wonder if wireless telephones will soon find their place in a museum beside the Model -T. I read a recent article touting the likely demise of the wire-line phone for healthcare providers in all but the patient rooms. While an interesting angle, it’s hardly practical given construction, bandwidth, and cost constraints.

There is no question that mobile computing and communications play an important role within care delivery processes. There seems to be an ever increasing array of multi-purpose device capable of handling a variety of media. Providers are faced with an unprecedented array of endpoints to choose from including traditional Workstations On Wheels (WOWs), lighter, faster, and more durable laptops, flat panel displays, bedside computing/education/entertainment platforms, and WiFi phones/scanners able of providing  interaction between clinicians, staff, and patients.

Unfortunately all the attention seems to be on these bright new shiny objects. We seem to be forgetting what is already available and significantly underutilized in most provider and payer facilities. I’m talking about the telephone and the myriad of messaging, administration, and control tools that many facilities have heavily invested in but for some non-understandable reason go unused.

While modern telephones (TDM, IP, SIP) can mirror only a handful of the features available in smartphones and  tablets, most healthcare IT/Telecom departments are failing to take advantage of the most basic features, even though the capabilities exist within their existing infrastructures using equipment from major manufacturers such as Avaya, Siemens, and NEC. By way of example, consider the following  features commonly available within every Avaya telecommunication system:

  • GROUP PAGING  can be used to broadcast in-house notifications rather than purchasing additional 3rd party applications.
  • Extension to Cellular provides mobile and wire-line access required by many staff and clinical workers without the need for outside applications.
  • Multi-party conferencing is a default capability supporting up to 6 concurrent lines and can reduce, if not entirely eliminate, the need for outside services.
  • VIP Services, as part of One-X, delivers call control, filtering, and contact management that is far less expensive and more reliable than many “healthcare specific” 3rd party applications touting device independence.
  • CONSULT allows a covering user, after answering a coverage call, to call the principal (called party) for private consultation.  This is a simple way to avoid external messaging services and to enable easy return calls.
  • DIAL ICOM accesses an assigned intercom group and offers a no-cost option to push-to-talk add-ons available on some 3rd party endpoints.
  • WHISPER PAGE – allows a user to make and receive pages where only the person on the targeted extension can hear the page. The real-time message/answer feature can eliminate the use of text messaging and the obvious delays associated with SMS based applications.

Telecommunication manufacturers provide an extraordinary array of inherent features (Avaya systems include more than 700 of them!) It’s time to focus on helping IT/Telecom organizations understand how these features can be used to support their operations and increase value while saving money – so healthcare providers and payers can buy the bright shiny objects they really need.

Mark Wechsler leads Arrow Systems Integration’s Healthcare Industry in the development of Intelligent Communication solutions designed to improve the quality of care, reduce costs, and increase patient satisfaction. Working for major healthcare technology vendors and consulting organizations such as Hewlett Packard’s Medical Products Group and Ernst & Young, he has acquired a clear understanding of the practical contribution technology makes in successful healthcare solutions. He provides guidance in the adoption and deployment of communication systems designed to accelerate information access and collaboration for payers, providers, and the communities they serve. Marks experience includes: 

  • Over 35 years industry experience. 
  • Development of critical care patient telemetry systems, serving as an interim CIO/CTO with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, implementation of various healthcare information systems, and deployment of ambulatory and acute patient record systems.  
  • B.S. – Computer Science – Duke University.

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