Unified messaging is an emerging technology which enables the individual to retrieve, annotate, as well as forward voice, e-mail and also fax messages through a single user interface. Users can have their e-mails and fax messages read to them over the telephone or forwarded to a nearby fax machine. Additionally, voice and fax messages can be responded to via the user's e-mail application.
"Unified messaging can be a great money-saver for hospitals", stated Joe Beland, product marketing manager at Siemens Information and Communications Networks. "Precisely in the area of collaboration, giving health staff the ability to save just five minutes per day by improving communications, could result in savings of up to $100.000 annually for a typical 250-bed hospital."
According to Beland, there are many cases for deploying unified messaging in a health care setting, such as collaborative diagnosis. In this example, unified messaging can be applied to improve the patient services by allowing medical professionals to more easily share and exchange information needed to diagnose and treat a patient. For instance, an on-duty nurse in a triage unit might not know how to respond to a voice mail she received requesting medical attention, given a peculiarity she noticed in the patient's medical history. Using Xpressions 470 unified messaging, the nurse can attach the patient's medical records to the voice message and send it to a colleague who is able to review the data and quickly assist with the diagnosis.
Another example constitutes remote access to information for diagnosis. A physician, located some distance from the office, is waiting for a patient's medical image to forward to another doctor who will assist with the diagnosis or perhaps make diagnosis while being out of the office. Siemens' Xpressions 470 unified messaging application can page the doctor to let him know when the image arrives in his unified in-box. He can then dial into his Xpressions mailbox from a nearby phone and forward to the co-diagnosing doctor data on where to retrieve and review the images.
A third possibility forms instant message notification. A patient is ready for surgery, but the doctor is awaiting confirmation from the insurance company regarding coverage for procedures. Or, perhaps the surgeon might be waiting for some patient information to be delivered before the patient can be pre-medicated. With Xpressions 470, the doctor can be notified the minute this information arrives, either via pager or phone, thus reducing the time and expenses associated with such delays.
There is also the compound message capability, that enables delivery of more comprehensive service to patients. With Xpressions 470 unified messaging, health providers can respond to an e-mail with a voice annotation or send a voice response to an e-mail or fax, creating as such a compound, multimedia message. This might be particularly useful in a triage unit, where a medical practitioner could respond to a patient's voice message with detailed printed directions on how to treat the ailment.
With the personal scheduler, doctors can keep in touch. A physician can use the personal scheduler in Xpressions 470 to have himself notified at various locations, or on a cell phone, by half-hour increments throughout the week, when an e-mail, voice or fax message arrives. The notification schedule can be easily customised for each day of the week and each notification device. Easy updating using a Web-based interface allows for adapting to the fluid scheduling environment in a health care setting. Utilising this feature, he or she is always in touch with the office.
The instant message notification and dynamic remote access to information feature enables off-site authorisations and approvals. A patient may need a prescription filled on short notice. Even if the doctor is out of the office, he can be immediately notified of the pharmacist's request whether it arrives via fax, e-mail or phone. The doctor can respond from the convenience of his cell phone or laptop e-mail. Alternatively, he could forward the request to someone in the office who is immediately able to handle the request.
Xpressions 470 simplifies the IT administration. A hospital IT department currently administers and maintains separate voice mail and e-mail systems for hospital staff. There is a great deal of turnover in the IT departments as staffers are frequently lured to higher-paying technology companies. With Xpressions 470 unified messaging, voice and e-mail systems are combined into a unified messaging system with a simple point-and-click user interface and a robust "help" package which make it easier for novice IT staffers to make additions and changes to these staff services.
Xpressions 470 is both a hardware and software application developed by Siemens, that supports configurations requiring up to 48 voice sessions. The application comes standard with a Microsoft NT-based server, featuring a 300 MHz or higher-speed microprocessor, at least 128 MB of memory and RAID Level 5 disk storage redundancy option. Standard features include a variety of call processing applications, including auto attendant, audio text and voice forms, as well as Web-browser interfaces providing each user with a personal messaging assistant. Future versions will integrate enhanced mobility capabilities and desktop call control.