Home and Hospice Advantage Supports Mobile Staff and Remote Offices with Cisco Unified Communications
In order to ensure that Home and Hospice Advantage's network security would support its aggressive growth plans, the company reached out to Netsource One, Inc., a Cisco® Premier Certified and SMB Select Partner. The Netsource One team designed a solution that provides solid security and meets HIPAA regulations, plus provides Cisco Unified Communications which unifies the company's remotes offices, better supports mobile staff, and makes it easier for patients and their families to communicate with the staff quickly and easily.
To support the company's goal of quickly opening new offices, Netsource One created an "office in a box" that contains all pre-configured Cisco equipment necessary to get a new office up and running.
June 5, 2007
Home and Hospice Advantage was founded in 2004 to provide end-of-life care services and better serve the needs of terminally ill patients and their loved ones, as well as provide quality health care to non-terminal home bound patients. The healthcare company has grown quickly from its main site in Bay City, Michigan, to 19 locations in the United States.
When Rob Wilson joined Home and Hospice Advantage as its IS director, he wanted to upgrade the company's network security-compliance with security provisions of HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is critical, and he also wanted to make sure the company's network security would support its aggressive growth plans. Wilson reached out to Netsource One, Inc., a Cisco® Certified Premier and SMB Select Partner headquartered in Saginaw, Michigan. Netsource One has earned an Advanced Unified Communications specialization from Cisco. Its clients include businesses in the healthcare, financial, legal and manufacturing sectors. "We work with companies that like the fact that we are local," says Scott Halstead, sales engineer with Netsource One. "If a client needs us, we can usually have an engineer on their site in less than two hours."
When Halstead first met with Wilson, the two spoke about HIPAA and Wilson's security concerns, then the talk turned to scalability. "When Rob told me of the company's aggressive growth plan and the number of offices it was planning to open, I took a step back and looked at their entire network infrastructure," says Halstead. "This included the LAN, what was in place at the remote offices, and their phone communications. I saw Cisco Unified Communications as a perfect solution for Home and Hospice Advantage."
Wilson says, "I realized we could really solve two issues with one Cisco solution - security and communications - plus support company growth. When Scott had me consider our communications needs, I realized how many issues we could address there." Those issues included long-distance phone costs that included faxing of lengthy documents, limited Internet use for site-to-site communications, and divergent phone systems that did not always support staff traveling among different offices.
Additionally, the number of planned new offices highlighted the need for standardized communications. Wilson says, "Deploying Cisco Unified Communications at all of our locations would provide our mobile staff with better efficiency because everything would look and operate the same at each site."
As Home and Hospice Advantage had recently made other technology investments, Wilson and Halstead had to convince the company that it made sense to replace the network immediately before moving ahead. "The biggest challenge with that was getting the executives to understand that this wasn't just an expensive phone system," says Halstead. "We needed to educate them on the phones, the unified communications, the integrated security, and the consistent look and feel among all of their offices."
At the time of the initial deployment, Home and Hospice Advantage had just a few remote offices. Netsource One deployed a Cisco 2800 Series Router and Cisco Unified Communications Manager for call processing in the main building, and distributed Cisco Unified IP Phones 7900G Series.
With the aggressive plan to roll out new offices, the Netsource One team wanted to meet Wilson's need to quickly open a remote office, keep the office portable, and provide it with reliable communications. They also helped develop a companywide standard set of communications procedures. Out of this came the "office in a box" concept.
With Cisco Unified Communications and its Cisco ISR Integrated Services Router, Netsource One created a kit that included everything Wilson would need to quickly open a new office. Netsource One engineers, working out of their Saginaw, MI office configure a Cisco 2800 Series Router equipped to work with Cisco Unified Call Manager, utilizing Advanced IP Services & Dynamic Multipoint VPN, a 16-port Cisco EtherSwitch® service module, a voice/fax DSP module, FXO and FXS cards, and Cisco Unified IP Phones 7900G series. Each office is based on IP addresses that match the business unit number, so it is always clear which router each office uses.
Everything is put in a box and shipped from Netsource One to the new Home and Hospice Advantage office. Within a couple of hours the Home and Hospice Advantage IT staff can connect everything, have an Internet connection and a couple of phone lines brought in, and the new office is up and running.
"We programmed the system so that it would look and operate the same at each site," says Halstead. "Now their staff traveling and working at different company locations is better supported because the communications system is exactly the same no matter which office they are at."
Home and Hospice Advantage has opened many new offices in short timeframes, sometimes four weeks or less. When Wilson is informed of a new office opening, he alerts the NetSource One team, which orders the equipment, configures it, and ships it out.
"I was able to open three offices in four days by myself," says Wilson. "The preplanning and pre-configuration is critical. When I would travel to a new office space, I would simply unpack boxes and start plugging things in."
The office-in-a-box system is working so solidly that Wilson hopes to be able to have a local student with a little technology expertise set it up for him. This will eliminate travel expenses for Wilson and the IT staff and allows them to focus on more strategic projects.
Remote administration capabilities and high-speed VPN services among the offices enable Wilson's staff to connect remotely to the new sites to provide training and support. With a quick, remote walkthrough of the new phones and capabilities, the staff at new offices is productive almost immediately.
"The consistent look and feel of all of the communications among all of the offices has really made a huge impact," says Wilson. "Corporate and nursing staff traveling to any office can sit at any desk and be able to log onto the system, easily work the phones, and conduct business from anywhere."
Not just IT has reaped the benefits-Home and Hospice Advantage has recognized real business benefits as well. Wilson notes that the ability to easily set up conference calls with Cisco Unified Communications has saved money and improved productivity. A few employees that used to spend hours sitting in traffic commuting to the office, now have home offices with a VPN client on their workstations and are working productively instead of sitting in their car. Wilson believes the company will have the ability to use that option more widely.
Most importantly, the system benefits Home and Hospice Advantage patients and their loved ones.
"We are, first and foremost, a healthcare organization so good, reliable communications is essential for us to help our clients," says Wilson. "Our patients and their families rely on being able to communicate with us and our nurses at a moment's notice." Netsource One set up the Cisco Unified Communications system so that patients or their families calling in to Home and Hospice Advantage will never get a recording. If the front desk can't answer their call in three rings, all extensions will ring and the call is answered by another available person.
"We're dealing with patients in end-of-life situations and they need and deserve personal, human contact with every phone call," says Wilson. "Cisco Unified Communications helps us provide that."
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