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Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

“We needed an improved critical communications system that could be implemented quickly and optimised for our use. Multitone has done just that, installing a system that provides a control system that switchboard operators are happy and comfortable to use.”

Brian Stalker, ICT Infrastructure Manager,

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust operates over two main healthcare sites - Dorset County Hospital, an NHS district general hospital in the town of Dorchester, and Weymouth Community Hospital. Dorset County Hospital is the hub of the district's inpatient facilities, providing 500 beds. The Trust also provides a paging solution for the Weymouth Community Hospital. With a successful working relationship with critical communications provider Multitone spanning over 20 years, Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has turned to the company to provide its latest i-Message integrated communications system to meet the ever-evolving needs of the Trust, its staff and patients.

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust had previously used a Multitone Access 3000 system for its critical communications, but a number of factors persuaded the communications team that a refresh was required, as Brian Stalker, ICT Infrastructure Manager, elaborated, “The reasons for upgrading our critical communications were two-fold. Multitone’s old Access 3000 system had served us well, using two servers. If one server failed you could cut over to the other, which was effective but it had to be done manually which increased the time needed to restore it in an emergency. Also, the original team members at the Trust that administered this function had left the company and this had become the responsibility of the central IT team, increasing its potential workload.”

Before choosing Multitone, Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust approached a number of vendors to investigate the options available.  “Having contacted a number of critical communications providers we had found their solutions were very much based on a mobile workforce that was based outside of the building and predominantly aimed to cut down the roaming call charges.  We need to be able to message people through a variety of means within the Trust’s sites, using the wireless network rather than the mobile network (to keep the costs down). It soon became apparent that i-Message from Multitone was the ideal fit. The solution lets us incorporate smart phones into our critical communications system, incorporating the ability to text message from the system to the appropriate device.  It can also directly communicate with smart phones utilising a dedicated app that links directly to i-Message, contacting people by directly through the local wireless network at each site. We needed this to work on iPhones specifically, as a lot of staff use these personally. We have been working with Multitone to develop the app specifically for our use and we are the first site to use it.”

The new solution addresses potential fears with regards to failover, as Clark Peacock at Multitone explained, “The new i-Message system is dual-server based and will automatically switch over if there is a fault with one of the servers, significantly enhancing resilience. The system needs to be available all the time and if there is a problem it needs to be resolved quickly. The Trust wanted to take advantage of using a unified communications platform, moving away from people carrying around multiple devices to just carrying one device that manages all communications.”

Staff at Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust were carrying around their own mobile device in addition to a work pager, which was inconvenient both with regards to functionality and physically carrying additional weight. Brian Stalker commented. “Staff often carry a mobile phone and then a pager and/or a wireless telephone - in some cases up to three or four devices. So using one device was clearly more convenient and cost-effective. The entire NHS is looking to reduce costs, so utilising existing mobile phones that people have already, a realistic and effective BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, is a useful feature for us. Multitone’s new i-Message product has been launched at the right time for us and certainly ticked a lot of boxes for what we needed.”

Another major draw in using i-Message is that it can cost-effectively integrate communications between the Trust’s sites in Dorchester and Weymouth. “This is one of the bigger benefits for us. We had an existing link with BT between the two sites, purely for paging, but it was very expensive. With the i-Message system we can communicate across the existing network link, which means we don’t need to use the old BT link and we estimate this has actually saved us around £5K per year!”

The wider benefits from using Multitone’s i-Message have become very clear, as Brian Stalker commented, “Switchboard operators can message people instantly though a variety of methods directly from the one console screen. Our operators are instantly guided to who they need to contact and how they are contacting them. Whereas other systems tend to work on a divert system and very much rely on the user to set up the divert (using the desk top phone to a mobile phone for example), i-Message automatically routes calls or messages to the most convenient communications. If an individual is out of the office for example, i-Message allows us to reach them rapidly by whichever communications method is most suitable for their location or circumstances.”

The use of the new smartphone app has been carefully controlled, as Brian Stalker commented, “We won’t be supplying them to the crash teams at the moment - all the panic responses will continue with pagers for the time being. However, amongst the staff to be receiving the smart phone apps will be the Junior Doctors - partially because the majority of them have smartphones (embracing the BYOD scheme) and embrace the principle of carry a single device, but also because of the cost saving to the Trust of not issuing and operating as many pagers.”

The new i-Message based system has already met and surpassed the expectations required of it by Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, as Brian Stalker concluded, “We needed an improved critical communications system that could be implemented quickly and optimised for our use. Multitone has done just that, installing a system that provides a control system that switchboard operators are happy and comfortable to use. It uses a screen-based console instead of the old switchboard terminal, which was quite difficult to use at times. It has been adapted very well, making it easy for operators to rapidly contact the right person. Multitone has provided training and support right from the beginning of the project. Our operators have been very happy taking to the system and are now training other members internally.”

Further development is already underway - “We are keen to develop the next phase and introducing the iPhone app facility with Multitone to demonstrate just what it is capable of doing and I expect this to happen early next year. With its flexibility, we are looking to use Multitone’s i-Message system on a wider basis. We currently have a patient monitoring system, taking the patient’s vital signs and feeding data into a centralised IT system. If there are any issues an operator is alerted and an urgent message is sent to the appropriate person or team. We are hoping that this will eventually be sent through messaging to smart phones – so we are working with Multitone towards integrating this into the i-Message system in the future.”