Doctors go mobile at Barwon Health

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By KAREN DEARNE (Australian IT)

GEELONG’s Barwon Health Hospital will host the first Australian implementation of Cisco’s new Virtualisation eXperience Infrastructure (VXI ), with rollout already underway in its intensive care unit.It is part of a deal that will see Victoria’s South West Alliance of Rural Health (SWARH) install Cisco’s virtualisation and collaboration technology in 180 public and private healthcare sites located across some 60,000 square kilometres.
At the same time, Cisco and Dimension Data will take over the operational and support roles, as SWARH outsources its ICT risk and management burden.
Barwon deputy chief executive Paul Cohen said the hospital is focused on making clinicians’ jobs easier, and is reaping the benefit of earlier work that has put Geelong and the region at the forefront of e-health adoption.
“We’ve got very good internal clinical systems, and we got rid of paper records about four years ago,” he said. “We’ve also increasingly got clinicians working out in the community, accessing data on the Oracle Sun Ray thin clients we put in some time ago; staff simply use Sun Java smartcards to activate available terminals wherever they are.”

The aim now is to “get onto one platform and get rid of complexity” while facilitating greater mobile access, whether via home PC, laptop or iPad.
“When we saw what Cisco was developing, the light went on in terms of thinking we could have a single environment,” he said. “We’ve all been trying to solve the same problem around the mobility of the people we’re trying to provide with a service.
“These technologies having been getting more sophisticated and healthcare organisations can’t always afford to retain IT people with those specialist skills.
“Finally Cisco is offering a technology that fits the way our doctors work.”
With around 8000 Cisco IP phones already deployed across the region, SWARH will turn these into hosted virtual desktops via Cisco’s Virtualisation Experience Client – a device attached to the back of the phone. Staff will access the network via their smartcards.
And SWARH will virtualise 70 per cent of its applications on the Cisco Unified Computing System, a convergence platform for business applications, network access and storage.
It also hopes to reduce power usage by around 10 per cent by combining Cisco’s EnergyWise technology with SWARH’s existing intelligent network of switches and power over ethernet capabilities.
Mr Cohen said building video into the underlying technology would lead to “the Star Trek stuff” where video replaces the phone.
SWARH chief information officer Garry Druitt said the health service would benefit from “a highly resilient environment to support its critical applications with no loss of service greater than five minutes and no loss of data for more than five to 10 minutes”.
“That might sound like a lot, but in reality large complex networks around the world may go out for hours, and we can no longer afford that to happen,” he said.
“It will allow us to move to the next major stage in ICT delivery, which is packaging those services into a black box, outsourcing them and focusing on the user experience.”
Barwon Health chief information officer Ann Larkin said the new convergence was just the beginning.
“Having that platform means we can develop our clinical strategy around collaboration,” she said. “Clinicians will start to get the benefits of that rich full media, they’ll see each other on video, and they can do remote consultations.
“The advantages of telehealth will start to really play out.”
Mr Druitt said there were already 350 cameras in the region, with around 1000 telehealth consultations each month.
“The biggest challenge is getting change in business practices,” he said. “People still drive in cars, putting carbon in the air and with the OH&S issues and downtime when they could be using video.
“We have to encourage people to change by giving them great tools.”
Mr Cohen said the VXI rollout would initially see around 700 Sun Ray clients replaced in the next few months, with 2000-3000 devices deployed across the region over the next two years.
“In parallel, we’re also getting around 4000 Cisco IP telephony handsets to ensure we get the integration,” he said. “People will be trialling the system on their iPads at the intensive care unit.”

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