Health-care non-profit signs up Telus for $6.5M IP deal

Saint Elizabeth Health Care, a non-profit home and community health care organization, has chosen Telus as its IP provider in a five-year deal worth $6.5 million.

The telecommunications giant provide Saint Elizabeth Health Care (SEHC) with a multi-site Internet protocol infrastructure (with hardware courtesy of Cisco) that will take care of its long-distance service, voice mail, fax, and e-mail needs.

When it came time to choose a solutions provider from a number of interested vendors, said Roy French, SEHC’s chief information officer, Telus was the clear winner. “Most of our folks aren’t mobile, so our field staff are out a lot and the main method of communication (with their office) is voice mail, so we’re an intense user of telecommunications services, and we would get reduced long-distance costs,” he said.

While French had no hard numbers about the exact amount of cost savings this new partnership would yield, he confirmed that the organization has already seen a decrease in its substantial long-distance bills, and he is sure the new venture will net it some serious savings.

“We also don’t have a very large IT department,” said French, “so we needed an easy-to-maintain system that didn’t need to be looked after, and Cisco has that device that can provide voice and data.”

Formerly, all 22 of SEHC’s centres operated on their own telephone switches and service, making simple tasks like broadcasting a message from the CEO to all centres virtually impossible, and the these switches were also coming to the end of their capacity. “Now we can have one common system that can communicate with everyone,” he said. SEHC’s server and SAN will be stored in a Telus data centre.

“This infrastructure can grow with them,” said Telus health-care vice-president Barry Rivelis. “That’s the advantage of an IP platform with internet-based applications — there’s no need to evolve the infrastructure, as the scalability allows you to scale on top of the platform when you change applications.”

French is confident that the new infrastructure will allow them to grow. “We can get into new areas and technology in health care-we couldn’t grow with the telecommunications structure we had,” he said.

SEHC already has a couple of pilot programs underway that take advantage of mobile solutions and IP. “We like to experiment with emerging technology and see how it applies in the field. Most of our workers are on the road all the time, and in a paper-based organization such as ours, we really want to take advantage of technology that facilitates communication with workers in the field,” said French.

He has 60 of SEHC’s nurses using Blackberries in the field for voice and e-mail purposes; SEHC will be extending the IP solution to them in the near future.

Other pilots include the wireless wound care program. Care providers are using Telus-wireless-enabled tablets in the field that allow them to make the most efficient use of that rare commodity: the wound care expert. The nurse goes to the client’s home and takes a picture of the wound, which is transmitted back to a wound care expert at the office, who assesses the wound, and makes recommendations and sends them back to the nurse.

“This gives clients faster access to experts in the field. Wound care experts are scarce, so you can’t have them in the field all the time — if it (takes three hours to see a patient), you might only get to see one or two clients in a day. By treating the patient immediately, you reduce a cycle that can take 24 or 48 hours, and the patient’s wounds heal faster,” said French.

An additional benefit to the immediacy of wireless data is instant information access. The next year will see another pilot rolled out that will gather valuable client outcome and clinical result data.

“When data is collected in an online form, we can do statistical analysis,” said French, who said that doing any sort of analysis on the mountains of paper generated by the organization would be a mammoth undertaking. This type of “electronic charting,” according to French, should be in pilot form in the coming year.

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