Adena Health Systems believes its investment in bringing video-based Web conferencing to doctors has improved hospital care for children and reduced medical costs for parents.
The medical center took part Tuesday in a Cisco Systems-sponsored roundtable discussing the benefits of bringing video to a corporate IP network. The event was held at the Interop conference in Las Vegas.
For networking vendors like Cisco, customer adoption of video adds to profits, but for Adena, the switch reduced by half the number of children it had to transfer 70 miles away to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
"For years, we were a Band-Aid station -- patch them up and move them on," Adena CIO Marcus Bost said.
That changed, at least in childcare, once doctors at Nationwide could see the ailing child on live video, while consulting with Adena physicians. The added visual information gives doctors more confidence in deciding whether the child needs more specialized care available only at Nationwide.
As a result, the number of transfers dropped from 140 in 2006 to 70 in 2007. The reduction meant parents did not have to worry about the $40,000 average cost of transferring a child, and doctors did a better job of sending only the sickest children to bed-scarce Nationwide. "It was a win-win-win situation," Bost said.
Within two weeks after Bost took the CIO job at Adena two years ago, the hospital's network, which serves 2,000 employees, suffered a major breakdown as a result of a mishmash of multivendor technologies that no longer worked well together. Hospital administrators agreed that it was time for a network overhaul, which included the addition of telemedicine videoconferencing built on Cisco Catalyst 6500, 4500, and 3750 series switches. Bost estimates the hospital spent $1 million on the upgrade, and in the last 18 months it has increased IT staff to 44 from 11.
Robert Whiteley, an analyst for Forrester Research who took part in the roundtable, said organizations typically add video support as part of the usual three- to five-year refresh cycle for networks. In many cases, the video-related technology, such as software for videoconferencing and broadcasting, isn't huge in comparison to the total cost of the upgrade.
In looking at the cost of adding video, however, Forrester clients typically want the return on investment to happen before the start of the next network upgrade, Whiteley said.
In general, the move to video is part of the changing view of networks as not just for support of transactions, but as a means of making communications among employees, suppliers, and customers more efficient, Whiteley said. The transition also reflects the change in measuring IT value through its contribution to customer satisfaction and employee productivity.
"Video is seen as something that IT can deliver and companies want," Whiteley said. Forrester estimates that nearly 80% of organizations that want videoconferencing will complete deployments by 2012.