Toronto health-care centre embraces Cisco IP network

The use of a single IP network is allowing a Canadian health-care institution open up its third site with a single technician.

Toronto’s Bloorview MacMillan Children’s Centre, which will open its newest centre

later this month, is basing its network on Cisco’s IP products.

Linda Hatton, the Centre’s director of information services, estimated that the switch to IP telephony will save the organization $75,000 a year in telecommunications costs. As for the data side, “it’s really a feebee at that point,” she said.

Reducing the number of disparate networks means users won’t be bound to a plug on the wall and an attached phone number. “IP telephony allows you to easily move your phone around or even better, log into any phone, supply a user name and a password and that phone becomes your phone,” said Brantz Myers, Cisco Systems Canada’s national marketing manager.

Hatton adds telephone numbers won’t have to change for the opening of Bloorview’s third site. “You can pick up the phone, plug it into the new network and it’s like nothing ever happened.”

Myers says adopters like Bloorview and the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance also save on adds-moves-and-changes, which he notes can cost $200 each and alone justify the switch to IP networking.

Further, health-care centres can utilize their IP infrastructures to deliver bedside video that in the case of a soon-to-be-launched Bloorview program will enable improved communications between long-term patients and their family and school classes. In another development, The Southwestern Ontario Health Network (SWOT-N) is using its IP network to connect 43 health-care centres through St Joseph’s Health Care in London, Ont.

“The smaller sites are looking for access to the academic centres. Instead of patients traveling, they can link into a specialist without having to travel,” says Neil MacLean, project manager of SWOT-N’s Videocare. “It has reduced the sense of isolation for workers.”

MacLean adds patients are thus far responding favourably to Videocare, in part because it is enabling more contact with their specialists.

Of course, these benefits of IP networking – reduced management and travel costs – are for the most part used by Cisco and competitors like Avaya Inc. and Alcatel to sell IP telephony solutions to a variety of verticals, including banks, professional services companies and education, an early IP networking adopter.

But health-care institutions can derive unique benefits from IP networking’s ability to treat disparate networks for nurse-call stations, registrations systems, telephones and imaging and X-rays as applications on one, larger network.

Some hospitals in the United States have begun incorporating WiFi phones that allow for mobile patient assessment, a practice that will be coming to Bloorview as well the B.C. Cancer Agency and Alberta’s Northern Light Regional Health in September.

“The real win comes in the integration of applications. Integrating [nurse-call stations, diagnostic alerts and other applications] with an IP wireless belt phone allows you to know solve problems that were not solved or not solved as well [before],” says Myers. “You can imagine that if one hospital has these problems, they all do.”

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