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Indentifying UC Opportunities in the Healthcare Market

Recently, my colleague Alaa Saayed published a study on the possibilities for unified communications in the healthcare industry. Although the industry has traditionally lagged in its IT deployments, many providers see opportunities and value in UC.According to Frost & Sullivan, there are about 5,600 medium to large hospitals and 5,700 medium and large ambulatory health care services in the United States. Despite the sweeping regulatory and operational changes that are impacting the U.S. healthcare sector, demand for communication and collaborative technologies has been growing over the past several years as healthcare organizations seek to improve operational efficiency and profitability.

Although the healthcare sector lags behind some other industries when it comes to IT deployments, a growing number of U.S. healthcare institutions are partnering with leading technology vendors such as Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, and Siemens to notably enhance communications and collaboration, and improve staff productivity, increase patient satisfaction, and reduce overall communication costs.

According to Frost & Sullivan, only 30 to 35 percent of U.S. healthcare institutions have already adopted IP telephony; this figure is likely to grow to 40 to 45 percent in the coming two to three years. But the healthcare industry has been one of the earliest adopters of WLAN infrastructure, with about 65 percent of medium to large institutions deploying wireless infrastructure. The main drivers are improved patient care, efficient caregiver-to-caregiver communications, and the robust delivery of applications and information.

In a recent Frost & Sullivan UC survey of 102 C-level executives, those from the healthcare/pharmaceutical industry were significantly more aware of technologies such as instant messaging, unified messaging and Unified Communications than their counterparts in energy/utility, financial services and government.

Telemedicine is one of the biggest use cases for UC, and its clear value proposition may explain the high awareness levels for advanced communications and collaboration applications in the industry. Many hospitals use audio, video and web conferencing to reduce travel time and costs, speed the exchange of patient information among hospitals and practitioners, deliver medicine to remote areas, and conduct long-distance medical lectures, seminars and conferences. UC also helps with interpretive services, and with "tele-pharmacy," which integrates pharmacy software, remotely controlled dispensing devices and telecommunication technologies to provision pharmaceutical services from a distance.

Alaa's research specifically highlights the deployment patterns and uses for IM, unified messaging, and UC; identifies the key trends in communications in the market; and discusses a company called Software Advice, which has developed IP telephony applications specifically for the healthcare industry. Clients can download the full report here.