Attention Healthcare CIOs – Do you know what’s in your network?

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If you are like many of the Healthcare CIOs I come into contact with through my LinkedIn group (Healthcare Unified Communications Forum), then you are probably faced with ever-increasing merger and acquisition activity. While consolidation in the Healthcare industry might make great business sense, and can benefit patients, it can wreak havoc with IT groups who must react quickly to new systems, new platforms, new technologies and new networks they “inherit” from these acquired properties. In an instant, you are expected to integrate the new platforms into your existing enterprise platforms and systems while also reporting back to the CFO on cost-savings initiatives to reduce the related, inherited expenses.

So, if this sounds like "your world," I think I have a solution for you. I have uncovered a group of consulting firms, many who specialize in just Healthcare, who provide technology and communications audits for their clients. This is not news — these consultants have been around for decades, probably since the breakup of the Bell System which began the onslaught of new services and new providers. However, some of these consultants don’t just audit communications bills. Some of them provide more services, and that’s what I want to point out to you.

Specifically, I refer to a “Network Asset Inventory.” Basically, this project will entail consultants scouring your invoices and contracts to identify every service, every circuit and every piece of communications hardware deployed in your network — very handy for those of you who have just inherited the proverbial “Rat’s Nest” from a new property your company has acquired.

The output of the Network Asset Inventory is a complete list, usually sorted by location of circuits, services and hardware (Most of which you probably didn’t even know you were still paying for!) your organization is paying for, along with the vendor who supports it. Many of the clients I work with tell me that the Network Asset Inventory is where they find:

  • Old pagers stuffed in a desk drawer
  • Outdated Toll-Free lines from expired marketing or patient contact programs
  • Hardware that used to support PSTN networks that “stuck around” even though the enterprise moved to VoIP/SIP years ago

The Network Asset Inventory provides you with a roadmap for where you should focus your team’s energies as they look for new platforms they will need to support and for opportunities to eliminate unused services – saving you money!

In addition, identifying new platforms or services used by acquired properties can be valuable to your Compliance Team. You may find a collaboration technology used by physicians that might present possible HIPAA Privacy breaches. Now, you can let your Compliance Officer know about these potential “gaps” in your compliance plan before breaches occur.

The best news is that these Network Asset Inventory studies are relatively inexpensive. Most of the vendors I have contacted charge between $2,500 and $10,000 for a study, depending on the size and complexity of your project. To me, this sounds like a great investment with huge potential benefit for you!

A word of advice — If you do decide to move forward with an inventory project, I would seek out a truly independent consultant. Many telcos and other communications providers have internal groups that provide auditing solutions to their clients. Their services might be fine, but an independent consultant eliminates the possible conflicts of interest when they review your network status.

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Mark McNeill is the Vice President of Healthcare Telecom Services for ISI Telemanagement Solutions, Inc., a Schaumburg, IL based telecom consulting and software development firm. Mr. McNeill has over 25 years of experience in Telecommunications and Medical Software industries. He has consulted with hundreds of healthcare providers and management companies on how to streamline IT costs, improve patient services and optimize efficiencies in the hospital environment.





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