Avaya launches new IP collaboration apps for healthcare sector.

Avaya today announced two new communications systems designed for healthcare organizations – one to improve communication with and among hospital staff members, one to automate the process of post-discharge patient follow-up, reducing the number of costly “preventable readmissions.”

Enterprise VoIPplanet had an opportunity to speak with Bruce Wallace, who heads up Avaya’s healthcare practice.

“Healthcare is delivered by a set of highly mobile, highly skilled professionals.” Wallace said, setting the stage for these announcements. “They are heavily dependent on having current information available to them wherever they may be. Also, they’re highly dependent on collaboration with others. So, we’re focused on the question of how we simplify and enhance that mobility and that communications experience.”

Avaya Mobile Device Checkout is a solution that targets a key “in-hospital use model challenge,” according to Wallace. Namely how to most efficiently share a pool of mobile communications devices among the very large and highly mobile staff.

Not only doctors, but nurses, orderlies, housekeeping staff, transport technicians, and the like are constantly on the move. “Few of these people have anything like a desk that they’re going to sit at for a substantial part of the day. And yet they need to communicate with others,” Wallace said.

The cost of equipping each staff member with his or her own mobile device would be prohibitive; a much better solution is purchasing and maintaining a large enough pool of devices to support the largest number of staff likely to be working a shift at one time.

The way Mobile Device Checkout works, is that at the beginning of a shift, each staff member checks out an appropriate device and swipes it with his or her staff ID badge. The system then associates that device with that staff member’s phone number. That is, each staff member has a permanent phone number. The system simply associates that number and routes calls to that device for the duration of the checkout period. At the end of the shift, the device is checked back in and is there for the next shift.

The system supports a wide variety of mobile devices including iPads, iPhones, and BlackBerries – in addition to standard cellular phones and voice over wireless LAN phones. Or, as Wallace put it, “it works with any phone that’s connected to the wireless LAN or to the Avaya Communications Manager.”

There is also an integral asset management system, that is activated only when a device is checked out for use. This avoids the problem of having the system display “a big bucket of dots showing all the devices sitting in the storage pool,” Wallace explained. Moreover, when devices are checked out, the system shows the name of the person whose phone it is for the duration of the shift, rather than hardware IDs or other information of dubious value.

Many healthcare systems around the world are focusing on reducing the numbers of “preventable readmissions,” which are immensely costly. One simple way to do this, according to Wallace, is to interact with patients after they are discharged from the hospital – to find out if they are in fact recovering, and if they are adhering to post-procedure instructions, like taking medications, attending physiotherapy, and keeping follow-up appointments.

“But the reality is that no hospital, given the number of patients they discharge on a daily basis, can afford to have people sitting in a call center – let alone having nursing staff doing this – calling every single person they discharge, to make sure they’re doing okay,” Wallace told VoIPplanet.

Avaya Patient Follow-up is a system that, based on diagnosis, automatically checks in with patients to see that all is well. “If it’s not, that’s when the call is kicked out to a nurse who can take proactive steps to remedy the situation,” Wallace said.

The system uses DTMF (dual-tone multi-function, i.e., dialing tone) “feedback” to gather yes/no answers and quantifiable information such as temperatures or pain scales, using preset protocols – cardiac protocol, or cancer protocol, for example – as standards.

“There are many reasons a patient may experience pain after discharge, but extreme pain is a problem,” Wallace explained. Then again, the expected body temperature range following certain procedures, such as chemotherapy, differ markedly from a normal population, and those ranges are part of the protocol associated with that treatment.

“The system lets you call the entire pool of patients, and you can focus your nursing efforts on the small percentage that really needs help,” Wallace concluded.

Avaya Mobile Device Checkout will be available in March 2011 and Avaya Patient Follow-up some time in the second quarter.

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