The desk phone continues to be a core part of many organizations. However, the demise of certain older PBX companies (Nortel), and the financial state of some current players, like Avaya, has brought the long-term viability of these systems into question. While some companies have decided to keep an unsupported platform for their telephone system and use either internal or external solutions to keep it running, for others this is not an option.
In hospitals, communications systems are a life or death concern
In the healthcare sphere, communications are more than just the phones; it is a critical part of delivering the care that facilities and organizations are chartered to do. In fact, communications failures are a large contributor to adverse clinical events and outcomes. In a retrospective review of 14,000 in-hospital deaths, communications errors were found to be the leading cause, twice as frequent as errors due to inadequate clinical skill. Communications systems are critical for healthcare operations and are one of the factors that are tracked in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), part of the US Health and Human Services (HHMS). For example, in the Medicare Contractor Beneficiary and Provider Communications Manual, systems are to be available 24/7 and not to return “soft busies”.
A communications failure can lead to decertification
In fact, a communications failure and the impact on a facility can be part of a CMS audit. If the system is not in current support, it can result in action leading to decertification. For healthcare facilities, CMS decertification can be disastrous whether it’s the cost of bringing the communications system back up to code and recertifying, the loss in business continuity, the impact on reputation or the sheer cost of losing revenue from CMS-based programs.
For healthcare facilities with systems from vendors that have either ceased to function or are in financial difficulties, this presents a significant issue. For example, Avaya has announced that support for its CS1000 PBX may be terminating in 2017. While this may be limited to the CS1000M models, the current Avaya bankruptcy and the uncertainty about the ongoing business are clear indicators that healthcare facilities with these systems need to begin thinking about their long-term future.
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How to replace the CS1000 platform
One readily available alternative to the CS1000 is the wide variety of Mitel communications platforms designed for healthcare facilities of all sizes. With Mitel’s ability to integrate easily with established systems, healthcare institutions can migrate with minimal impact and reasonable cost. HealthEast Care System, a healthcare organization with four hospitals, 14 clinics, homecare services and a medical transportation center, recently decided that its older Avaya system and service was no longer meeting its needs. After an exhaustive search, HealthEast narrowed down its options to continuing with Avaya or choosing a new communications system from Cisco or Mitel. In the end, Mitel’s total cost of ownership was less than half of Avaya’s or Cisco’s. Mitel’s offering presented a simpler architecture and the ability to integrate with HealthEast’s electronic healthcare record system, Epic. With the time and money it will save through ease of migration, HealthEast chose Mitel’s platform as the best path forward.
Whatever you do, do it soon
Clearly, time is running out on these older systems, and both for the good of the patient population and the ongoing business of the facilities themselves, considering alternatives is important. Mitel is an option that should be considered in the overall migration planning exercise.