Hospital Telecon Net Sees Change, Expansion.

November 4, 2017 November 10th, 2017 Nursing

Fragmentation and cost increases resulting from divestiture, along with a need to be more geographically flexible, are factors pushing the five-year-old Georgia Hospital Association’s statewide audio teleconference network to convert from a dedicated to a “meet-me” system.

The 80-hospital network began early in 1980 with 22 hospitals on a multipoint circuit provided end to end by Southern Bell. The system featured selective signaling and broadcast alert. Three stations were installed at each hospital: a speakerphone with push-to-talk handset in the administrator’s office; a telephone set with push-to-talk handset in the hospital educator’s office; and a Darome Convener unit for group participation in the education conference classroom area.

The network grew to over 100 hospital sites in 1983 and has provided over 250 contining education courses for a broad spectrum of hospital professionals and skilled staff. Nearly a thousand professional group and administrative conferences have been conducted by audioconference, saving countless hours of productive time and making available peer communications that would otherwise not exist.

An ambitious statewide registered nurse refresher teleconference course that permitted 160 nurses to “refresh” their expired nursing licenses and return to active nursing was created. Because of the complexities of a refresher, most local hospitals could not afford to offer such a course to a small number of students. With the statewide Telnet course, aggregate attendance made it feasible to conduct the course.
Health-care careers awareness has been greatly enhanced through the statewide careers-update conferences, where local school career counselors are invited to the hospital to attend a statewide teleconference featuring national leaders in the counseling field, hosted by the state counselor’s association. Career and scholarship information is made available along with a tour of the hospital that emphasizes the variety of career areas.

Fast audioconferences are seen as a way to conduct some of the many board, council, society and committee meetings that are necessary to maintain an aware and responsive association. Audioconferences quickly bring together people that otherwise would have difficulty meeting. Three Types of Meetings

Three main teleconference forms are typically carried on the network: education courses with formal lessons and continuing education credit, professional group meetings with a topic focus and administrative conferences.

Education courses are three to five one-hour sessions. Slides and handout workbook materials are sent in advance to the sites and are distributed by the local network coordinator, who is usually the hospital education director. Courses have covered a wide range of hospital topics–from the roof to activities in the basement! A course on roof evaluation and maintenance for hospital engineers and a course on laundry management have been offered. Programs for just about every activity area in the hospital have been produced: emergency room, finance, law, infection control, dietary, housekeeping, medical records. Hospitals have a diversity of specializations in one facility.

At the association headquarters in Atlanta, activity to implement plans for a new “meet-me” system are underway. A 60-port end-point bridge is to replace the existing dedicated network. Costs of operating a dedicated network of the size and reliability necessary for the mission of statewide interactive conferencing are increasing, and the alternative is the “meet-me” approach. “Meet-me” teleconferencing is based on the public switched network. Participants call to the teleconference bridge at the appointed time and are then connected together for a large conference call.

Although the switched network is showing some decline in reliability and transmission quality, the control and flexibility inherent in the “meet-me” approach are overriding factors.

There is potential to share the capability of our new bridge with others in health care. We plan to become a center for health-care voiceonferencing.

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