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May 12, 2014

How a £2m collaborative communications platform is transforming healthcare

Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust has turned to Unify to improve patient care.

By Duncan Macrae

Unify, formerly known as Siemens Enterprise Communications, has provided the Royal Free London NHS Hospital Trust with a unified communications (UC) platform.

It is hoped that the solution will help more than 6,000 clinical and support personnel to respond more effectively to patients’ needs, irrespective of where they are on the Trust’s North London campus.

As part of a five-year deal worth £2m, the project will enable hospital employees to find new ways of working, including mobile and flexible work options and wider inter-departmental collaboration that will drive faster and better decision-making. The pilot will be fully deployed by the end of 2014.

Unify will provide a complete OpenScape suite of Voice, UC and Wireless Mobility products as well as 6,300 extensions for IP-based SIP telephones for clinical and administrative staff across the site. Unify will also provide full user training, while its technical support team will ensure all products’ software assurance and system updates throughout the agreement.

The implementation, which will see the latest Internet Protocol (IP)-based UC and associated collaboration tools running on an already virtualised infrastructure, will complete one of the most advanced ICT communications programmes ever undertaken by a UK NHS Foundation Trust.

The Royal Free London NHS Hospital Trust’s new communications platform is expected to improve service delivery through various innovations. These include Unify’s UC platform improving staff’s ability to respond to and treat patients, whatever the chosen communications channel or staff member’s location as well as simplifying medical and support staff’s ability to securely access patient records.

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The overall effect will be to optimise the Trust’s available critical care resources and software applications on patients’ needs and better manage departmental workloads. It undertook over 880,000 patient engagements in total during 2012.

Unify won the project after a competitive tender process through the Public Services Network (PSN) Framework and was awarded Lot 1 Voice. The PSN defines common standards for equipment, software and service operation for public and third sector communications infrastructure programmes.

Will Smart, director of Information Management and Technology at the Royal Free London NHS Hospital Trust, said: "We’re committed to maintaining the best possible patient outcomes and Unify’s OpenScape portfolio will help us to ensure that we can deliver responsive, location-independent care for our patients.

"The OpenScape platform, used in a virtualised environment, will enable our doctors and support teams to better respond to patients’ needs and make decisions faster. This investment in cutting edge communications and full user training will enable our employees to get much more every day from the applications and record systems that they run."

Trevor Connell, MD of West Region EMEA at Unify, said: "The OpenScape UC platform will provide simpler and more convenient access to key Trust staff across different sites. The system will be fully scalable to the Trust’s changing needs, whether heavily-used services like A&E or new hospital facilities. It will greatly reduce the Trust’s fixed and variable costs as well as system maintenance needs."

Expected operational and financial benefits include:

– Doctors and support staff will benefit from ‘One Number’ working, with desk handsets and mobile devices accepting all voice, data and e-mail communications, whatever their location. As a result, Trust employees can reach colleagues easier, set rules to manage incoming calls and indicate their availability, boosting both staff’s collaboration and overall ability to respond to patients’ needs as well as better manage workloads

– The OpenScape portfolio includes interactive voice recognition (IVR) technology allowing the Trust staff to better direct high incoming call volumes and improve internal users, patients and families’ overall communication experience

– Key information will be more easily available to authorised users across the campus because all OpenScape devices will run on an underlying VMware infrastructure that ‘decouples’ data and applications from fixed PCs and departmental computers. This greater data accessibility will enable more dynamic patient admission, treatment and discharge processes, easing the strain on high pressure services like A&E

– UC capabilities will greatly reduce fixed costs such as circuits and call charges while both circuit and wider system maintenance needs and the associated costs will be much lower and more predictable

– OpenScape gives the Trust’s ICT and estates departments complete flexibility to scale up or reduce system users, in line with changing care demands, on-boarding of new clinical facilities and the decommissioning of outdated ones

– The new UC platform will also simplify both inter-departmental collaboration as well as the Trust’s development of shared service partnerships with external NHS health and government organisations over the longer term

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