Giving Machines a Voice: Use Cases from Healthcare, Government and First Responder Services

By the Experts at Mitel


Digital transformation in healthcare, government, and emergency services comes with its own set of challenges. In this video from Mitel Next San Antonio, Wes Durow, Chief Marketing Officer at Mitel, brings use cases from Harris County, HealthEast Care System, and local government consultant Technology Trends Group to highlight how digital transformation affects crucial health, safety and government concerns. 


From the Video


Wes: Thank very much, Rich, it's always a privilege when I can be joined on stage with a special guest and in this instance we've got three really superb panelists. Let me introduce, first, Lou Gallagher. Lou is responsible for technology at HealthEast. HealthEast is a large healthcare organization in Minneapolis, Saint Paul. One of the things that Lou has been tasked with is actually driving their HR, health record management's transformation, five-year $135 million project. And when you think about the environment at a hospital, just the check-in process alone in terms of how many people are required in that process is substantial. And in a typical hospital, a hospital bed is actually used less than 70 percent of the time. So when you think about collaboration, digital transformation, huge opportunity for improvement.

Our next guest I'm gonna introduce today is Niki Papazoglakis. Niki is actually with Harris County, the third largest county in the US. They host several big events each year. This year they hosted the big game that featured a surprising comeback, if you're a fan of the team from the northeast. They host the Houston Rodeo, which is actually even bigger than the big game and she's gonna talk about bringing together that organization because it's not just the people of Harris County that she has to pull together, there's all sorts of outside agencies, of first responders that she's got to bring together to collaborate and stay connected for the safety and sanctity of the folks in her area.

And then finally I'm joined on stage by Byron Battles. Byron is with Technology Trends Group and he's a long-time hired gun for customers of all shapes and sizes. He's been particularly integrated in what's taking place in the civic area, the digital transformation of cities, how governments can better care for their constituent base, so please welcome Byron as well. To our panelists, thank you for joining us.


So I'm gonna start with just a few easy questions to open up. Lou, for you, how is this move to digital transformation reshaping what's taking place at HealthEast?

Lou: That's a good question, Wes. I think it's really two-fold. What we've been able to do at our dev ops team is be able to deploy applications much faster. Which used to take us months and even years, we can now do sometimes in weeks. So our speed to market is just much quicker than it ever was before. And then our customization. In hospitals, it's very tough to get customized functionality back to our internal customers as well as our external customers. And we've been able to do that for physicians, patients, family of patients.

Wes: Great, great. Byron, from a government perspective or what your clients are seeing, how is digital transformation reshaping those organizations?

Byron: Well the primary client that we're working with is a major municipality on the East coast and it's going from decades of Centrex, which is basically dial tone, to a unified communications solution from Mitel that's gonna provide a variety of modes of communication and the potential for much more convenient, much more effective, much more efficient types of communications amongst the city agencies.

Wes: And Niki, I know you're in a little different spot because you've got people that are toting guns and hauling hoses and really unique environment. So as you try to intersect the different devices they carry, these people of different organizations, how is that changing the face of collaboration?

Niki: Well public safety traditionally uses radio for communications and so being able to provide devices with mobile apps, we're now able to empower them with other mechanisms to share video streams or pictures. Super Bowl LI was the first large-scale event that we actually operationally incorporated the use of mobile apps and other technologies. There were arrests that were made, children and missing people that were found, medical calls that were faster and expedited. So it really is transforming the way that public safety is able to operate and communicate and collaborate at large-scale events and ultimately in incident response, as well.

Wes: Byron, have you seen the same thing from your perspective?

Byron: To a different degree, but very similar, the technology is gonna be there and it can provide all sorts of wonderful and great things, but Niki mentioned backstage that it takes an amount of muscle memory for the people to actually be able to use that and the users really don't care what the technology is, they want it to be simple, reliable, helps them do their job. So it takes a tremendous amount of training and communication and testing to make sure that when it's ready to go it works.

Wes: Sure, sure. You know, it's got to be really challenging, all the different devices and sensors. And I know part of your big transformation at HealthEast, Lou, was moving to an Epic platform to really automate, I think you have seven or eight different HRM platforms and really automating one across 14 different locations. How challenging is it to try to take devices and software applications and your communications platform and try to bring that together to drive collaboration? What is that process like?

Lou: That's been extremely challenging. In healthcare you not only have your EHR, which is really your primary application, but you have hundreds, literally hundreds of separate applications. And they all try to communicate independently of each other to the EHR. So that's been a really big challenge. What we've done is we've tried to centralize that so all of our physicians use the same communication channels, all of our nurses use the same communications channels and it comes back to a central thought process. Which Mitel is a core piece of it now.

Wes: And Niki, I've got to think you've gone through the same thing. I mean, I can't imagine all the constituents you have in Harris County. They've got lots of devices and platforms and how you knit that together for the Super Bowl or for the Houston Rodeo, it's got to be a real challenge.

Niki: It is and you're never gonna get a whole bunch of government agencies at federal, state, local, county, across various disciplines to all choose the same platforms, but when it comes to large-scale operations, even daily operations and incident response, they need access to that information. So it doesn't matter if you own the sensor or they own the video system that captured whatever intelligence or information needs to be shared, that needs to get to the right people when and where and how they need to be able to access it. And especially as we start to evolve and move more towards wearables and other things where now an incident commander can actually monitor the vital signs of their responders to say, "You know what, that firefighter shouldn't be going into that building right now because that could create a worse situation for all of the responders involved in that incident." So I think what we're just gonna continue to see more complexity, particularly as we get into more IOT, more wearables, things like that.

Wes: And can you talk a little bit about the cultural transition you went through? Because I've got to think you've got rough and tough firefighters and policemen and so forth that think, "I don't need this." So talk a little bit about the cultural transition you went through to change out the technology.

Niki: Yeah, absolutely. It's really exciting. In the beginning, we showed up with our new tools and technologies and thought they would all embrace it and be very excited and they kind of looked at us like, "Why do I need that? I have my radio." And so we started with a ground-up approach of where are the problems? Where are the pain points? But you can't ask them that, you have to know what they do and how they do it to get to the right answer to find where are those challenges? And once you find them and then you bring tools that actually solve those problems. When they see the arrest, when they see the tears in the parents’ eyes of the runaway child that they found using your app, sending the picture out at an event with 175,000 people, it moves them.

And they go, "Wow, this is cool and I like this, where's my app? Can I use it for the next event?" So by the nature of what they do as a profession, are inherently resistant to change, but I think collectively as we're bringing forth tools and technologies, if we can understand what they're doing, where their pain points are and bring solutions that actually solve those problems, when they see the successes from it, they very, very quickly become adopters of it and it does drive that cultural change and how they look at technology and communications.

Wes: Byron, I'd be interested in your perspective, the cultural transition that you see?

Byron: It's been pretty marked. For years the cities' municipal telephone exchange and the office of IT worked separately and they really didn't have much to do with each other. Now, as the local operating telephone company is being eased out and we're moving into an IP type of environment, those two organizations are having to learn how to work together, and they're doing well, but there's a division of responsibilities for what's behind the wall, which is network and infrastructure, and in front of the wall, which is provisioning and operations.

And basically that's where we're needing to understand. And then when you get to the actual end users, there's a whole other culture of what can we do with this solution now? As opposed to just pick up and make phone calls. There are a whole scad of communication capabilities that need to be conveyed to the users.

Wes: Excellent. And I've got to think your situation is pretty unique. If you had all these different platforms and devices and different hospitals that you, and care sites you've had to pull together, how did you work through the cultural transition in your instance at HealthEast?

Lou: So ours is a lot like Niki. We've got these people called physicians that know everything about everything so they try to tell us how to do things. They want a bigger better pager in their environment, we still use pagers in the healthcare industry, and it's been really interesting, been there four years, to try to get the physicians and the caregivers to trust in IS and see us as an engineering and architecture team to be able to deliver new applications for them. They always wanted to go out and buy their own specific tool because they thought that tool was the best thing. So the cultural shift has been from them almost not wanting to speak with us to, just last Friday I had our CMIO, our lead physician send me an article saying how come we're not doing this? And I was lucky enough to say we already are. So we've got our customers coming to us now.

Wes: So as you think about this transition, this move to increased collaboration, the move to digital transformation, is it about saving costs, reducing expenses? Or is it about a better customer experience?

Lou: For healthcare it really is about the patients. I mean that's what we talk about and it really is. How do we give a more service-oriented, from a technology perspective, experience for patients? It's a very hard industry to go through as a customer, let's say. And what we're trying to do is just make that easier.

So what our big goal is is to do real-time communications, like Rich was talking about. We've got a technology that we're deploying where if you're a patient with congestive heart failure and you step on a scale, that can communicate back with us real-time and then we can communicate back with the physician or contact center to act upon that data.

Wes: Excellent. Byron, what's your perspective? Is this about saving costs? Is it about a better customer experience? Or is it something else?

Byron: Well with local government it's always about at least containing costs, if not reducing them. But with this particular municipality it's also allowing the constituents and the citizens better access to the city services, and specifically, not keeping somebody that wants to pay their taxes on hold for 45 minutes. So being able to let them pay their taxes.

Wes: Excellent, Niki I'm gonna give you the last word of the day. Tell us, when you look at this transition, what does it mean to your constituent base? Is it a cost savings? Is it better customer experience? What's really driving it for Harris County and the people you serve?

Niki: In public safety in general it always comes down to protecting lives, saving lives, protecting property, and keeping the first responders safe who are responsible for protecting those communities. And so costs are always a factor in government and it's something that is important, but it's not the driving factor, it's keeping the first responders and the citizens safe. And being able to provide tools that can drive efficiencies, have advantages around cost savings because you get efficiencies of not having to drive somewhere to get certain information. You can push information out to field users. So maybe you can start to be able to reduce staff and do more with less. But in our world it's really about the public safety outcomes and what are the tools and technologies that we can provide that enable better, safer communities?

Wes: Excellent. Well I'd like to thank our guests today for spending some time with us, sharing their story. So thank you very much, we appreciate your time. Thank you.


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