Hospitals Remedy Telecom WoesBy Caron Carlson | Print
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The merger of two hospitals in Atlanta to form one of the largest pediatric health care systems in the country presented a long list of logistic and technological challenges, not the least of which was creating a smooth communications system. Those challenges, in turn, presented the hospital's CIO with an opportunity to deploy the latest in IP-based telephony.
When Egleston Children's Health Care System and Scottish Rite Children's Medical Center merged in 1998, 20 satellite sites around Atlanta were incorporated into the new complex. The locations stretched across the city, comprising three area codes and dozens of prefixes, making it impossible to transfer or forward calls among sites.
"We had a variety of different phone systems between the campuseswe had different voice mail systems, which made communications somewhat broken," said Jack Storey, CIO at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Deploying a uniform data network was the first IT priority, but about three years ago the hospital began working with BellSouth Corp. to examine ways to tie the myriad telephone systems together. Storey said he reviewed a traditional switch system from Nortel Networks Ltd. but opted for VOIP (voice-over-IP) technology from Cisco Systems Inc. because it presented a lower overall cost, more options for upgrading and a more efficient operation overall. The hospital estimated that a VOIP deployment would cost 40 to 50 percent less than installing a traditional system.
BellSouth, like most phone companies, is moving aggressively into the business market, targeting large enterprises in education, government and health care. For hospitals, BellSouth offers packages that emphasize security, improved customer relations and cost savings.
The VOIP implementation has been a gradual process that will end up taking about two years by the time it is completed this summer, Storey said.