Phone System Upgrade On Hold, But Still Needed
Island Health intended to upgrade to a new Cisco Unified Communications System, but the project was put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, and strategies such as supporting a remote workforce and telemedicine became priorities.
The system was not alone in shifting priorities during this time. Due to the pandemic, healthcare organizations dramatically stepped up their digital communications, increasing the availability of telemedicine by 42 percent and patient portals by 50 percent compared with 2019, corporate advisory firm BDO reports in its 2021 Healthcare Digital Transformation Survey.
Island Health’s project resumed in the summer of 2020 with the goal of deploying the upgraded system remotely before the end of the year.
During the planning phase, Taylor and his team involved a wide range of stakeholders, including members of the call center and department directors. With their feedback, the planning team created a proof of concept for the system and decided on Cisco as the most stable choice.
“In a healthcare environment, the name of the game is stability. That’s the guiding star for us,” Taylor says. “Cisco UCS was very well developed over several iterations, and it hasn’t made too many acquisitions, which can sometimes affect stability and availability.”
Overcoming Phone System Implementation Challenges
Island Health already relied on Cisco for other products, such as IP phones and access point switches. The call center staff also preferred Cisco’s user interface.
The transition to the new phone system, however, wasn’t free of challenges.
“Obviously, there is staff turnover, things get forgotten, you drop blocks of IDs, there are old circuits — it gets quite messy,” Taylor says. “We had to go through that with a fine-toothed comb.”
In November 2020, when the hospital finally threw the switch on the new system, there were issues related to transferring phone carriers and porting numbers. There were also growing pains among the staff, some of whom had a tougher time than others in dealing with the new technology.