Unified Communications (UM): “A commonly used term for the integration of disparate communications systems, media, devices and applications. This potentially includes the integration of fixed and mobile voice, e-mail, instant messaging, desktop and advanced business applications, Internet Protocol (IP)-PBX, voice over IP (VoIP), presence, voice-mail, fax, audio video and web conferencing, unified messaging, unified voicemail, and whiteboarding into a single environment offering the user a more complete but simpler experience” – Wikipedia.
Yup, as with WiFi and Virtualization, Unified Communications is a major enabler in the world of Healthcare Informatics. I’m not the only one who thinks so, Microsoft, CISCO and even IBM thinks so too. Thats right, Carestream Health just announced at RSNA that they will integrate and sell a key component of the IBM Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC2) platform—IBM Lotus Sametime.
Is this idea new? Not at all, I’ve been hearing proposals about integrating Instant Messanging and VoIP in the world of Radiology Informatics for years but there is always some hiccups – most hospitals have PABX for their phone systems and no one can gurantee a 100% uptime for their network.
Without a guarante that VoIP will be reliable as the existing phone lines, hospitals will have to maintain 2 infrastructure if they choose to do UM, which isn’t so ‘unified’ then.
Don’t get me wrong, I use a VoIP phone at home, its great in my opnion and I do think that UM will work wonders in improving operation workflow (be it in a healthcare setting or not) but the changes has to happen at the fundamental level – at the physical layer.
The network has to be designed and expanded in the correct manner (this is easier said than done. Seriously) and even if you managed to clear that hurdle, there are other factors that must be taken into consideration – the external network (among many other issues).
Am I bashing UM? Definately not, it is the way to go. But I do have my doubts if the concept can be implemented effectively (yet).
Lets see if 2008 holds something for the world of Unified Communications.