Staff at the Central Middlesex Hospital, London, have benefited from a new Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system from Nortel which has helped reduce call charges and system administration, without needing to change any telephone numbers.
The hospital, part of the North West London Hospitals NHS Trust, was being redeveloped as part of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and needed a new telephony infrastructure to replace the trust’s previous analogue hospital.
Rick Juniper, director of ICT at the trust, told EHI: “As part of the development we wanted to update the telephony used and try out internet telephony. The aim was to save money and have less cable.
“The trust believed that this was the right thing to do, and by using a system like this we were able to reduce the number of data points from 6500 to 2840. We had hardware as part of the PFI, so we needed to ensure that the system used would be extra resilient to run both data and telephony.”
After going out to tender, the trust chose Nortel to provide this functionality, supporting almost 2,000 IP phones.
Juniper said: “Our old system was an old BT analogue system, and one of the problems with it was it was independent and switchboard controlled. The hospital has 2000 extensions and the neighbouring hospital, Northwick Park, has 6000. We had to ensure that we had one centralised switchboard to route all trust calls, and would interface seamlessly with the older systems to accurately match names and numbers through VoIP.”
Two servers at the new facilities at the Central Middlesex Hospital have been configured so that either system can operate the entire network in the unlikely event of failure at one of the sites. The Nortel solution has enabled the unification of the two existing operator services, ensuring all calls are answered by a single service on a single number, thus improving customer service and saving the time and costs involved with redirecting calls.
The solution, which also supports 340 analogue telephones across all the trust’s sites, enables the automated routing of critical telephony services, hands free facilities, and an integrated staff paging facility.
Juniper said: “For such a large trust, incorporating Northwick Park & St Mark’s Hospitals in Harrow, Central Middlesex Hospital in Park Royal and outreach services based close to our local communities in Wembley, Willesden, Edgware, Stanmore and Harlesden, switching to internet telephony was a risk, especially as it had not been tried in many NHS trusts at that stage.
“But we feel it has paid off. Getting staff used to the new system is an ongoing challenge, but those using it are very comfortable and it has taken off. We haven’t needed to change numbers and patients are seeing faster response rates. Soon, we will have interactive voice response (IVR) capability, ensuring patients speak directly with trust staff and departments directly, providing a consistent experience for callers.”
Using IVR, patients will be able to say the name of the staff member they wish to speak to and be diverted straight to their direct line, rather than through a receptionist.
System management capability allows the trust to configure, control and analyse the network via a Windows graphical user interface or a web browser, simplifying administration of the network
Staff can also work using the VoIP system from home by using Nortel’s CallPilot, a unified messaging application, letting users combine voicemail, e-mail and fax messages into a single mailbox, accessible by any phone, desktop PC, or mobile email-enabled devices.
Juniper said: “This is extremely useful for staff who work away from clinical systems as phone calls and messages can be transcribed into e-mails, meaning staff are constantly kept up-to-date on all contact they have.”
The trust is now looking to expand the service to the neighbouring trust sites, and has put in a similar system at one community hospital.
“We are putting plans together to create a resilient network to enable us to extend VoIP functionality to our other trusts. We want to cut expenditure as much as we can, including cabling, so we are investigating wireless telephony as well.
“The great thing about this new system for finance is that prior to going-live we had one network engineer, one hardware engineer and two telephone engineers on site. Now we just have one engineer looking after all our systems on site.”
Now that N3 is VoIP enabled, the trust also hopes it can be one of the London early adopter sites of the service, demonstrating the benefits the technology can bring.