Taking the pulse of VoIP

A Toronto children’s hospital is one of an increasing number of health-care organizations that have recently adopted IP networks to facilitate voice and video services. Last year, Infostream Technologies Inc. implemented Cisco’s IP telephony solution into Bloorview MacMillan Children’s Centre’s existing

data infrastructure.

Bloorview integrated voice, video and data onto a single IP network, allowing it to provide flexibility and mobility benefits such as the ability to deliver connectivity to its mobile workers via their laptop computers.

The hospital has converted hundreds of phones at its MacMillan and Bloorview sites as well as temporary site at Merton St.

Peter Stavropoulos, company spokesman for Infostream, said the Richmond Hill-based systems integrator decided to go with an integration-based solution to meet Bloorview’s needs.

“”They had 20-year-old technology in the environment and they needed to refresh and expand the technology without a forklift upgrade,”” said Stavropoulos.

“”We provided a migration-integration strategy for them so they could meet their business objectives.””

Bloorview decided to make the switch to VoIP in part because of an aging data infrastructure that had grown over the years to the point where it filled a 3,600 sq-ft. room with a tangled mess of switches, hubs and cables.

On the telephone side, Bloorview was leasing a very expensive Nortel 21 E switch that had no opportunity for growth without replacement.

The hospital had the added problem of connecting its two sites. Two years ago, Bloorview looked at videoconferencing as a possible solution, but ran out of places to plug it in. Plus, construction for Bloorview’s new $107-million facility, scheduled to be completed in 2006, was to begin in January, which meant moving people and offices around the MacMillan site during the construction phase.

“”We were looking at getting rid of all that telephone technology, the aging stuff, the lack of growth, and building something that would help us move forward and get us to the new building and be useable in the new building,”” said Linda Hatton, director of information services at Bloorview.

At its lab, Infostream integrates its IP telephony technology with existing TDM technology, tests it in pocket POC (proof of concept), gets the sign-off from the customer and then deploys it at the site.

The patient-specific benefits in terms of mobility is one of the reasons behind the increasing trend in the health care industry, said Stavropoulos.

“”It’s allowing individuals to have a closer pulse on the patient, meaning having singular type of devices on the nurse or doctor to monitor and the patient having access to the doctor or nurse faster from a wireless standpoint.””

Brantz Myers, national manager of enterprise marketing for Cisco Canada, cited nurse call integration with the telephone system as an attractive benefit to the health care industry.

“”We can deploy IP phones on people’s belts that look like cell phones, but they’re actually Wi-Fi-based phones,”” he said.

The total cost of the project was just under $500,000.

“”On an annual basis right now, I’m saving $120,000,”” said Hatton, adding her budget is 60 per cent less on the telecommunications side.

But for Hatton, dollars can’t make up for the potential IP has to help patients.

“”Sometimes mom or dad may stay here and the other has to go home. I just want to help keep those people connected.””

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