Hamilton Health Sciences is setting its sights on a paging system and wireless upgrades due to the recent completion of a telephony upgrade.

The Hamilton, Ont. health centre will begin an upgrade on its paging

system through Glenayre on March 13, said Paul Pierre a hospital consultant with Disys Consulting, based in Burlington, Ont. That will be patched into the hospital’s call centre and a Mitel Networks TDM system.

Before upgrades could be considered, the hospital had to be on the same TDM exchange across its four locations. Hamilton Health Sciences is the result of a 1996 merger of two hospital corporations: Chedoke-McMaster and Hamilton Civic. The latter has had Mitel TDM in place for more than seven years while Chedoke-McMaster struggled to keep up with an aged Rolm system.

“”One of the challenges of a merger is getting people to communicate and work like a single organization,”” said Pierre. “”The limitations of the two systems — especially one of them being very old — was becoming quite a hindrance to unifying the combined institution.””

Hamilton Health Sciences milked the Rolm system for as long as it could to save costs, but it reached its limits by last year. “”The problem was, the old Rolm was out of capacity and it wouldn’t support modern digital services,”” said Pierre. “”(The systems) could only talk to each other at a very basic level and we needed advanced levels of communications.””

Last year, Mitel responded to Hamilton Health’s request for proposal (RFP) and won the contract to extend TDM across the organization. “”They all had to be integrated together into a common number plan and a proper class of services delivered to each set. In some cases we actually had to find telephones. It was a fairly large job,”” said Mitel corporate account manager Brian Grantham. A combined team of Mitel and hospital IT staff installed the system while Pierre coordinated as project manager.

A uniform phone system across all four sites has allowed for a more simplified, centralized administration, plus “”the more subtle efficiencies of call display across the sites, being able to forward your calls, pick up your calls wherever you are,”” said Pierre.

Now that the upgrade is complete, the hospital is focusing on its paging system upgrade and is considering a voice/data wireless IP network, though Pierre is quick to add that the hospital aims to keep its TDM infrastructure in place for the next five to seven years. The IP network will likely be installed in remote locations.

“”The hospital is putting in a new clinic that’s not going to be in one of the four major centres. That clinic will in fact be voice-over IP,”” explained Pierre “”Remote facilities and wireless is where we’re targeting, but for the core fixed sites we’re staying with TDM until the current investment has run its course.””

Sheila, Bowron, executive assistant to Hamilton Health’s chief operating officer, works in one of the Chedoke-McMaster sites. She has found the new TDM phone system easier to use since the TDM upgrade but is looking forward to the day when she can access the office remotely. “”I’d like to see improved communication between office and home. Right now I have dial-in, but it can be slow because you’re using a modem,”” she said. “”If there was a way of simplifying that, that would be good.””

The healthcare market is ripe for telephony upgrades, said Mitel CEO Don Smith, and accounts for a sizable margin of the company’s business. “”Most of the healthcare organizations are under similar pressures in terms of budget issues, amount of nursing staff and all of those kind of things,”” he noted. “”Fundamentally what people need are solutions that optimize not just that cost structure, like networking to other healthcare institutions or clinics, but they also help the doctors be more efficient and effective.””

Mitel also provides IP networking solutions, which are being leveraged by hospitals to use laptops and PDAs remotely, added Smith. Hamilton Health hasn’t yet selected a vendor for its proposed IP upgrade.

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