Effectively Managing IT and Communications Infrastructures

By | August 23, 2006

Working closely with Siemens, we have direct access to product direction and are aware of what’s coming along in terms of new technology development. Our facilities can serve as a good test bed for some of the newer technology under development, such as wireless systems and SIP (Session Internet Protocol) phones that can be used to allow employees to work at home and access calling features as if they were in the office.

In addition to technical expertise, another important criterion in selecting an outsourcing provider is that they have industry-specific knowledge and experience. That’s particularly important in the healthcare sector, because of the need for continuous access to communications and information by healthcare professionals. The requirement for constant uptime takes on a whole new meaning when patient care is involved. One of the reasons we selected Siemens to manage our communications is that the company has a dedicated healthcare team that provides us with this level of support.

With a communications specialist rather than a consulting generalist managing and monitoring our communications infrastructure, we’re already seeing significant benefits, including a substantial increase in the quality of service and support. The average turnaround time to fix all types of problems related to communications is down significantly, and problems are usually resolved within one call. With automatic fault reporting software and self test and monitoring equipment, problems are often detected and cleared before users are even aware that there is a problem.

Because of the design of the new equipment, many of the fixes and equipment adjustments can now be done remotely. In the past, a breakdown would often mean a technician would have to come out to our sites. In Manhattan that is not an easy task; you have to find parking, get to the floor, get access to fix the phone, and move onto the next problem. That can end up being very time consuming and expensive.

From the standpoint of service quality, we can now analyze call logs to see call volumes or what happened at a particular time regarding a particular voice communications problem. With this information, we’re now able to see where we can make further improvements in service.

Another benefit is lower operations costs. We estimate that in the first year of our contract we will see $600,000 to $700,000 in the telecom area alone in cost savings. We plan to conduct a formal return on investment analysis of the communications outsourcing arrangement in August 2006, when the first year of the engagement will be complete.

We now have much more transparency in terms of what our communications costs are. This transparency or “open book” ultimately gives us a greater understanding of our costs and helps us to reduce inefficiencies. In addition, we have a gain sharing arrangement with Siemens in which we share some of the savings we enjoy as a result of improvements. This provides incentives on both sides of the table to reduce costs.

Perhaps most important of all, by putting our communications management in the hands of experts we’re able to focus on our main objective—helping Continuum Health Partners provide the best possible health care to patients—rather than trying to resolve problems with communications equipment. Our IT department no longer receives the volume of calls for help that it used to get from users. Telecommunications can be a very taxing technology in terms of the amount of help people need, whether it’s for a basic problem about dial tone on desktop phones or something more complex such as how to get wireless access from different locations.

By not having to spend so much time answering questions and resolving telecom issues, we can devote significantly more time to efforts such as developing ways for IT to help the organization improve productivity and boost the efficiency of our operations.

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