With the health-care system under the nation’s watchful eye, expenditures within the industry are made with caution and care. For Brant County Health Unit (BCHU) in Brantford, Ont., the decision to implement a new telephony solution was

made with the future in mind and return on investment expected.

The BCHU waited 12 years to replace its old phone system with an integrated voice and data network from 3Com Corp. The SuperStack 3 NBX Networked Telephony Solution is designed to enable the unit to take advantage of voice-over-Internet protocol (VOIP) technology, which should reduce costs, according to Toronto-based Trent Ready, 3Com Canada’s business development manager for voice.

Ready noted that with the tight budgets that publicly-funded organizations have to work with, the ability to deliver more services inexpensively is very attractive for the health-care industry.

Rob Bannerman, the computer systems administrator for the BCHU, said that the ease of administration tasks around the system has freed him up to concentrate on higher-level issues within the organization.

“”For the day-to-day tasks like adding or moving or changing a phone, we’ve trained one of the secretaries to handle the administration. Granted, she did get training — about a half-hour’s worth. It’s very straightforward and has been a nice surprise,”” Bannerman said. “”And doing the administration ourselves has already saved us a bundle.””

According to Ready, the ease of use is part of the system’s appeal.

“”One of the great things about the NBX solution is that at the end of the day, it’s simply a phone on the desk. There’s no learning curve for the end users and it’s easily assimilated,”” he said.

While the implementation of the system did require some changes to the BCHU’s network infrastructure, Bannerman said that a return on investment is expected within a three-year timeframe.

“”What we had was not quite up to snuff to carry VoIP, so we upgraded the infrastructure to make sure that it would work flawlessly. So far, so good,”” he said.

Bannerman said that the choice to replace their existing phone system, which was “”well past the end of its expiry date”” with VoIP, was made with the Unit’s future in mind.

When it came time to cost things out, VoIP made sense in terms of upcoming expansion and other capabilities, he said, noting that data such as X-rays and MRI results can be sent through the IP network. This is the rationale being used by many health-care organizations, according to Warren Chaisatien, a senior analyst for telecommunications research at IDC Canada Inc. in Toronto.

“”These organizations are typically large with many branches and are good candidates to roll out these types of solutions,”” Chaisatie

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