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The Moral Case for Unified Communications

Like many people across the world, I was enthralled by Pope Francis' visit to the United States. I smiled at the images of him in that tiny black Fiat and listened intently to his speeches before the United States Congress, the United Nations staff, and the United Nations General Assembly. While I am not a Catholic nor an overly religious person, his message of justice, fairness, and global stewardship appeals to me.

Personally, I don't believe that religion has anything to do with wanting to make the world a better place. Good people approach a virtuous life from many different directions. In fact, the Pope said as much when he spoke these words:

The chances are pretty good that the people who are reading this article are not doctors or nurses. We do not perform surgeries, repair broken bodies, or comfort the sick. Neither are we social workers who dedicate our lives to helping the poor and mending fractured communities.

We are men and women in the communications industry. We design hardware and write software. We stand before C-level managers and evangelize IP telephony and conference bridges. We roll up our sleeves to lay cable and install servers.

And yet, the fruits of our labor are present when those more noble acts occur. The products we create and sell are in operating rooms and inside nurses' pockets. They are in the hands of fire fighters as they battle wildfires in drought ravaged California. They are on the PCs of emergency responders coordinating disaster relief efforts.

Are you familiar with the expression "door-to-balloon"? You are if you work in cardiac care. Door-to-balloon (D2B) is the time it takes for a patient to enter the door of an emergency room until he or she receives percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), such as angioplasty. Current national guidelines for D2B recommend that it be no greater than 90 minutes.

In 2006, a cardiac care facility in South Florida gathered a team of experts to investigate ways to address D2B and they came up with the following plan:

It's hard to read that list and not see how communications can play a big part in lowering D2B time. Any time I see words such as "notifies" and "alerts," I think unified communications and communications enabled business processes (CEBP).

Thankfully, I am not the only one who sees that, and recent efforts have created better and more productive ways to communicate between the various teams involved in a cardiac emergency. Paramedics are identifying and calling in heart attacks from the field. The patient placement process has been streamlined with better forms of communications. These and other changes have allowed D2B times to drop from 90 minutes to as low as 67 minutes. Fewer D2B minutes lead to more saved lives.

For a concrete example of medical communications in action, take a look at what the folks over at Extension Healthcare are doing. Their Extension Engage product uses unified communications to alert healthcare professionals of what they need to know at the time they need to know it.

An estimated 240 million 911 calls are placed in the United States every year. These calls save lives, protect property, and stop crimes.

Did you read Mark Fletcher's No Jitter article, Saving Lives with WebRTC? If not, you really need to. In it, Mark shows how WebRTC has been combined with mobile telephones to create a multimedia solution that more effectively handles 911 calls. Using this advanced technology, emergency responders are provided with new and more powerful tools to deal with crises, and callers are more effectively able to manage the emergency on their end.

Even without WebRTC integration, innovations such as the ones I described in 911 Moves to the Cloud are revolutionizing the world of disaster resolution. SIP and the cloud give enterprises features and flexibility that do not exist with TDM.

It's hard to open up the newspaper or watch the evening news without reading or hearing about a tragedy at a university or public school. From Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook, we've seen how a single deranged person can cause overwhelming tragedy and grief.

Unified communications may not be able to stop these problems from occurring, but it can help lessen the pain. Products such as the Avaya Notification Solution assist law enforcement and emergency responders in reacting quickly to everything from a gun on campus to a gas leak. Combining traditional telephone calls with text, conference, email, and even social media, people can be notified of an emergency as soon as it is recognized. Lives are saved and disasters avoided.

The contributions of communications professionals assist in significant and noble acts every single day. No, it's not all for the greater good. Our products are used for mundane two-party and conference calls, too, but they are also the lifeline between caregivers and their patients. Imagine a modern day hospital without mobile communications or a patient alarm system. I cannot.

We can all do more to become better people and help solve the big problems that plague our world, but those of us in the field of unified communications are not simply sitting on the sidelines waiting to be called into action. Our unique contributions are already making a difference.

To paraphrase the words of the Pontiff: Slowly, gently, and little by little, we are part of the solution.

Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.

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