Toowong Private Hospital (TPH) has been providing excellence in health care in Brisbane’s northern suburbs for over 40 years. Concentrating on patient-focused mental health care, TPH is a leader in both inpatient and day patient treatments, as well as providing community-based services and specific day services for military personnel.
As with many health service providers, TPH is a complex organisation that brings together specialists, allied health professionals and administrators to deliver patients the best care possible. The transition to NBN services were due to start in the Toowong area which meant that copper services would soon be cut off. TPH realised seamless continuation of their telephone services was a priority.
Making the move from copper wiring telephony to internet protocol (IP) telephony is a complex exercise and the considerations for TPH presented unique challenges. Like all health care providers, being prepared, highly skilled and exceptionally organised is key to providing flawless health care. To accomplish this, TPH uses two large telephony systems (one for patients and one for administrative purposes); failure to roll out a successful transfer from copper wiring to IP telephony wouldn’t just impact their ability to comply with legislation and run an effective health care service – it could actually risk lives. Easy and fast communication between departments is paramount when dealing with health emergencies and so TPH understood the need to engage an IT provider that could implement the transition between systems with ease and reduce the likelihood of performance issues. There was also the need for minimal interruptions to the patient phone system in order to remain compliant with regulations.
TPH was eager to ensure the planning and preparation could be done in advance of the scheduled termination of copper services and that a simple ‘flick of the switch’ would see the new system in place. To add to the complexity, TPH required a new IP telephony system that closely resembled the functions of the previous one, and one that made transition simple for both permanent and casual staff members to understand intuitively. The system also needed to enable a failsafe mechanism – if the primary internet connection failed, they needed an instant backup to ensure patient safety and legal compliance.
Sentrian already provided IT services to the hospital and had engaged in designing programs for use within TPH. David Sallows, Director of Administration and Finance approached Sentrian, as well as an IT company and a major telecommunications company, to quote on the implementation of the new IP telephony system. The IT company didn’t provide substance in their quote and the major telecoms company presented an off-the-shelf solution, but David noticed that Sentrian tailored the quote to TPH’s needs: ‘it wasn’t generic, they’d clearly listened to us’, he remembers. ‘Sentrian answered the problem about dual networks [patient network and admin network] from day one. They understood our infrastructure.’
'Sentrian came in at all hours and did training sessions.'
Understanding the time limitations of staff in a health setting, Sentrian developed a plan to fit the TPH constraints and engaged in timed consultations with key staff. Sentrian’s undeniable comprehension of the technological needs meant development and design of the strategy could occur in the background. Requiring minimal feedback from TPH staff concerning the logistics of the project and the rollout, rather than a full consultation, was a welcome arrangement for time-poor senior staff.
Knowing the risks associated with transferring to a new system, Sentrian recommended and supplied high-quality enterprise-grade fibre connection to reduce the likelihood of performance issues. David recalls, ‘we were hesitant at first, getting someone to support our hardware’. But Sentrian proved their knowledge and expertise were worthwhile. The Sentrian team approached the hospital early in the relationship to ensure they were ahead of the upcoming rush to move to IP telephony. TPH acknowledged that the building is ‘like a bomb shelter’ with WI FI points scattered in every room. But Sentrian weren’t fazed by the existing infrastructure and just took customisation in their stride.
In addition to transferring the cabling, the TPH phone system had around 75 handsets in patient rooms that needed replacing. TPH had expected to pay upward of $100 per handset in replacement costs. ‘Without Sentrian, we probably would have scaled back the phone access into each room, and that’s a problem’, says David. However, Sentrian recognised an opportunity and sourced an innovative solution enabling the hospital to use their existing hardware on the new system.
'The main thing is that it is so intuitive that we did not have any real problems.'
Reflecting its usual focus on support, Sentrian generated a mini-network for staff to test, making sure that the new system worked as closely as possible to the old before the termination of the copper service. Through feedback supplied by TPH staff, Sentrian was able to tweak functionality of the system to provide the exact service the hospital needed.
Sentrian exhibited their great reputation for customer service and training. Sentrian trained key nursing staff in how to use the new system – champions who could then pass on their knowledge to other staff members, in particular night shift workers. David says Sentrian, ‘came in at all hours and did training sessions. The main thing is that it is so intuitive that we did not have any real problems.’ A ringing endorsement of their focus on people.
By accepting Sentrian’s expert advice, TPH’s transition to IP telephony was a simple and straightforward experience. There was no disruption to patient services, no compliance violations – the simple flick of a switch and business as usual – all due to months of careful planning and building. Sentrian’s experience in the industry allowed the team to foresee potential problems and take proactive measures to avoid them. Sentrian had installed a backup system through the 4G network. In the event TPH’s primary communications connection was lost, staff and patients would only experience a simple ‘blip’ as the 4G system kicked in. Seamless.
TPH is not alone in their need for superior service and the complexity of this project is not unique. Moving to IP telephony is fraught with potential problems, and while not all problems put lives at risk, choosing a subpar IT service provider can put livelihoods in danger. Sentrian’s experience and expertise shows that any company at risk of losing their phone lines during a transition period can feel confident that business disruption will be minimal.