5 Ways to use Social Media at the 43rd Annual ACUTA Conference in Dallas

nec-acuta-social-guideThis year’s 43rd Annual ACUTA conference and exhibition, which focuses on technology and communications in higher education, will be taking place near NEC headquarters here in Dallas, Texas.

Conferences like ACUTA used to be simple. You registered, showed up for the event, went to a few workshops, got some free snacks, had a conversation or two, and went home. It was easy—one or two days of learning, and then back to work.

But social media has changed all of that. The nature of conferences has changed from local affairs to global showcases with interactions between attendees occurring well before and after the event itself takes place.

There are still those attendees though, who are so focused on getting as many in-person interactions out of their workshops, sessions, and conversations as they can, that they forget— or choose not—to utilize social media during the actual show.

This, however, wouldn’t be the best way of going about things. Why? Because social media tools actually empower you to accelerate the networking process, make higher-quality connections, and feel more comfortable in a setting that, for many, can be challenging (i.e. lost luggage, a restless night, can’t find your co-workers etc.).

As local residents and longtime ACUTA attendees, here are our top five social media tips to help you get the most from your ACUTA conference time and money:

1. Join the pre-party.

As social media use continues to be embraced by the public, we see online conversations start well before the conference convenes—usually weeks in advance. The ACUTA event has several social media outlets that you can utilize to follow the interactive discussions taking place before the conference. These tools also will usually allow you to see who will be attending, to set up pre-conference meetings, to find out what the trending/hot topics are, and to judge the overall traction the conference is or is not gaining among your influencers and those you influence.

With tools like Twitter or the official conference app, you can actually “meet” several people in advance of the show.

Several ACUTA conversations are already taking place on LinkedIn, Twitter – where the official show hashtag is #AcutaConference14, and Facebook.

2. Eavesdrop on the other sessions.

Most of us study the conference agenda well before the show date and select sessions or full tracks that pique our interest. But what happens when the panel starts and you quickly realize the topic or viewpoint is not what you were interested in originally?

Social media gives you the opportunity to eavesdrop on the digital conversations happening in the other session rooms. This gives you the opportunity to discover more energetic exchanges that are equally or more relevant to your business than the one you are attending.

3. Make better contacts.

Social media gives you the opportunity to get to know new contacts before you ever sit down with them. With tools like Twitter and LinkedIn, you can research their backgrounds to find where your common interests are, what conversations they are most active in, and learn a little about them as attendees. Then, when you schedule a time to grab a cup of coffee or talk shop between sessions, the time both of you spend together will be much more productive than it would have been pre-research.

This gives you the opportunity to attend unofficial gatherings of attendees that usually take place at conferences. Many times these can be some of the most satisfying and productive networking events at the show. It also gives you the opportunity to stay in touch (on social media) long after the event, which in turn nurtures more meaningful deals and partnerships.

4. Have fun record-keeping.

Think of social media as taking notes, with the advantage of having dozens or even hundreds of others also taking notes and sharing them with you. This means your travel log is full of robust information that you can take back to other members of your team that didn’t get the opportunity to attend.

Social media also gives you the chance to pick up quotes and statistics from the sessions you don’t have the time to attend, which can help spark further discussions and connections. And finally, attendees can use social media to interact directly with speakers. So you get an additional opportunity to chime in with your point of view, agree or disagree, and have a robust discussion with leading thought leaders in your industry.

5. Discuss after the show.

Social media can actually help you manage your new contacts after the show, should you meet other attendees from whose technology experiences you want to learn more (or vice-versa). You can also use it to keep in touch with vendors whom you’ve met during the show. With so many different ways of keeping engaged—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter—you can easily maintain new contacts virtually, at least until you can get back to your office and follow-up with them more officially.

If you are interested in discussing with us the advancement of higher education communications and collaboration technologies, then you should visit us this year at the show—taking place at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Dallas.

Attendees and Speakers who will be Live Tweeting from #AcutaConference14:

If you are following a participant or vendor this year, or would like to learn more about NEC, give us a shout-out in the comments.  

IT Convergence: Key Technology Trends that are driving Smart Enterprises to Modernize towards converged IT infrastructure

Modernizing IT infrastructure and becoming a Smarter Enterprise

nec-smart-enterprise-it-convergenceThe need for modernization among IT departments is a trend that is becoming increasingly relevant as IT departments are constantly faced with generational shifts in technology. The pressures of modern business require that IT departments close the gap between yesterday’s IT implementations and tomorrow’s demands.

Organizations that fail to modernize will rapidly lose their ability to respond to changing customer needs. They will weaken their competitive positions in the marketplace. And most importantly, the gap between where they are and need to be will only widen, leading to an expensive and uncertain future.

With most businesses facing incredibly tight or shrinking IT budgets, taking the appropriate steps toward modernization will seem expensive. With a modernized platform, however, organizations can add new capabilities and enhance overall employee performance while reducing their electronic footprint, leading to increased savings over time.

What is a Smart Enterprise?

Smart enterprises leverage more converged IT technologies to optimize business practices, drive workforce engagement, and create a competitive edge. Merely leveraging a converged IT framework in your IT department means that you are on your way to operating a smarter, more efficient business. IT organizations can utilize four key areas of value and then assess their plan against:

1: Business Agility

Today, most workforces are mobile. As such, your applications and enterprise architecture should empower these mobile workforces. Creating a more adaptive and more programmable infrastructure will enable IT to be more responsive to your organization. Businesses in today’s world are always on, and as a result, you need to consider how your most critical services can adapt more naturally and automatically to the mobile and always-on workforce.

2: Cloud Delivery

Modern businesses need to be incredibly efficient. Cloud delivery provides businesses with the opportunity to flexibly deploy services and software more consistently across converged premises, cloud, or hybrid infrastructures. An enterprise IT business plan should consider how and when to deploy certain services in the cloud, when to operate them on-premises, and when to purchase them as-a-service.

3: Collaborative Communities

Today’s growing workforce demands rich Internet-style applications that are easy to access from anywhere and work consistently from any device.  Organizations who have built collaborative communities by providing powerful tools that deliver consistent and intuitive user experiences, converged applications, and distributed architectures are able to adapt dynamically to change and empower employees to their fullest extent.

4: Assured Services

Securing business information—protecting your company’s intellectual properties and digital assets—falls squarely on the shoulders of IT.  Add security with the need to assure business continuity, and you get a business that must consider greater infrastructure planning, high availability at multiple layers, a consistent and aligned security credential methodology, and which must validate automated archival methods.

Steps to Modernization

Competing in today’s business environment is about meeting challenges, making decisions, and innovating rapidly—using the best and most current technologies, tools and information.

Cloud services, mobile integration, real-time collaboration, and high availability are becoming essential ingredients for the smart and secure enterprise. They are part of a rapidly evolving technology foundation by means of which the best solution providers enable new approaches to how your businesses IT services are delivered and managed, allowing you new opportunities for growth.

Want to know more about IT Modernization?

In an upcoming post we will discuss Enterprise IT Modernization Strategies and their benefits. And, if you’re going to Enterprise Connect this year, be sure to come see us.  Our solution experts will be happy to discuss how our IT solutions can help empower your smart enterprise.

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Healthcare Communications: VoIP and Unified Communications Solutions offer Business Process Improvements for Medical Practices

nec-appointment-reminder-medical-office-ucThe most successful businesses are the ones that keep clients in the loop. For medical practitioners, your communications platform (phone, email, and notification systems) is your foundation to the management of your patient population and success of your business operations. Consumer-driven healthcare is the new reality, and medical practices rely now more than ever on patient satisfaction and experience to maintain a profitable practice and to sustain reimbursements.

And what many fail to realize is that the large hospital-owned groups are investing in advanced communications systems designed to make that growth easier.

The point of all of this is to say that if your system is too outdated; your patients may choose to find a practice that provides them with a better user-experience around scheduling, notifications and general communication with their provider.

Rather than rely on older analog phone systems and outdated contact center software, your medical office can turn to IP Telephony solutions with Unified Communications features to help manage your daily patient matrix management and care.

Why IP Telephony?

Modern phone system technology delivers so much more today than just a dial tone. Phone systems are constantly changing, and are growing to be part of converged networks that seamlessly tie voice with other Unified Communications (UC) features like data, video conferencing, instant messaging, single-number reach, appointment scheduling, and other business-critical communications tools and applications.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that allows telephone calls to be made over computer networks. And while it’s not a new technology, many organizations have not yet transitioned from older technologies to IP telephony (IPT) solutions. IPT converts analog voice signals into digital data packets and supports real-time, two-way transmission of conversations using the internet. So rather than needing to install and pay for multiple lines in your office building, you can tie your phones directly into your internet network rather than needing to utilize a Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) phone.

Here are some of the ways that Medical Professionals can benefit from IPT systems:

Increased Cost-Effectiveness

Operating IPT systems can be less expensive than traditional wired telephone systems because they require less hardware, less maintenance, and have lower OPEX costs than POTS systems.

Not all IPT systems are created equally though.  When you look at the total cost of ownership for IPT systems, you’ll find that the best systems lower capital, implementation, and operational costs than standard POTS systems.

Plus, maintenance of your telephony system should be easier with all of your organization’s voice and data traffic integrated into one physical network. Although there is an initial setup cost, significant net savings can result from managing one network and not sustaining a legacy telephony system in an increasingly digital and data-centered world.

Enhanced Quality

For medical practices, much of your daily communication will always rely on person-to-person conversations. IP telephony systems provide clear voice quality so that communication with patients is never compromised. Additionally, it complements the other initiatives and investments in your practice such as Electronic Health Records.

Improved Extensibility and Accessibility

The communications industry moves at a rapid pace. The best IP telephone hardware is modular, and much of its advanced functionality is software based. This makes it easier to manage the total system. With the hardware, you can just replace or upgrade certain pieces as needed. The software can be updated to include new components and capabilities when they become available. Additionally, such advanced technologies were previously only available to large enterprise organizations with deep pockets.  Today, these systems are available for small business and independent medical practices.

Advanced Applications

Many IP telephony systems can be bought in conjunction with or are already a part of, Unified Communications systems. UC offers advanced capabilities—such as appointment confirmation, emergency notification, and enterprise-level mobility—that improve the efficiency of your office’s operations.

These additional applications can modernize your communications strategies.  Medical practices are operated by appointment schedules. So any gaps or lost appointments that occur during the day result in lost revenue. At the same time, managing multiple clients and appointments can be tedious, time consuming, and expensive when done manually. It may also counter your Electronic Health Record strategy.  So a VoIP and UC enabled solution makes sense for independent physician practices.

Why? UC can provide you with an appointment reminder system that supports outbound reminder/service calls. This sort of application can be programmed to remind your patient populations about everything from upcoming appointments, to what the vaccination requirements are for local schools.

With the extensibility that UC provides, any member of the medical office staff can keep patients aware of whatever it is they need to know. The bonus is that you benefit from increased efficiency and revenues, reduce missed appointments and last-minute cancellations, and increase customer and employee satisfaction and retention with one program.

Better Integration

Since many UC capabilities are software based, integration with other business systems is relatively easy. This gives your staff the ability to see who is calling your office before they pick up the phone, and gives them the opportunity to pull the patient’s profile before answering the call. The result is a patient who is favorably impressed by your company’s expert customer service and communications skills.

Whether it eases employee frustration or keeps your schedule full of confirmed appointments, we’re sure that a unified communications system with IP telephony can bring your medical practice enterprise-level communications features and mobility solutions that will modernize and benefit your organization.

To learn more about how we can help your medical practice improve patient communication and provide cost-effective business process improvements, click below to talk to one of our healthcare technology experts.

7 Reasons to Consider Cloud-based Unified Communications Services

nec-7-reasons-to-consider-hosted-uc1The productivity benefits of Unified Communications (UC) continue to be recognized as it moves into mainstream adoption. As organizations consider how best to deploy, there are a number of factors to consider.  This post focuses on the top reasons to consider Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).  UCaaS capabilities, also known as hosted or cloud-based UC, include the features found in premises-based IP telephony, as well as presence, integrated audio and web conferencing, mobility, collaboration, video solutions, and business application integration features all delivered as a service.

The benefits of UCaaS go above and beyond simply shifting costs from a capital expense to a predictable operating expense.  Here are our top 7 reasons to consider hosted UC solutions:

1.       Business Agility

Many IT organizations are stretched too thin and struggle to balance day-to-day operations with strategic projects.  One of the advantages of UCaaS is the speed of deployment.  Businesses have the flexibility to rollout UCaaS without the IT time and resource commitments associated with a legacy deployment model. Additionally, maintenance and support time is reduced as there is no longer the need to plan and implement system updates.  UCaaS offers quick updating through the cloud, so a business can choose to deploy new applications to all users or a single department as soon as they become available. This gives an IT department greater flexibility with their communications system, as upgrades can be rolled-out without any disruption to the system.

2.       Increased Efficiencies

Hosted UC services provide business customers with the communications they need without the associated capital costs of traditional on-premises systems and the costs associated with management and support. This increases both budgetary and IT resource efficiencies. With a lower budget barrier to entry, businesses can avoid the upfront capital outlay with UCaaS. Additionally, the predictable monthly expense allows businesses to plan more efficiently. A hosted UC solution can also increase IT efficiencies as there is no need to support and maintain a physical systems on-premises.  Eliminating a number of time consuming tasks for IT folks allows the organization to focus resources on core competencies and provide strategic value to grow the business.

Having your communications solution in the cloud helps avoid technology obsolescence and the time and resources associated with a large scale “technology refresh.” Why? Because cloud-based communications give you a system that scales quickly and is flexible enough to grow alongside your ever-changing business.

3.       Increased Reliability

Hosted UC providers power their UCaaS offerings via the cloud. The best providers have secure and resilient data centers that are redundantly configured and geographically separated to ensure continued service in the event of catastrophic events and Service Level Agreements that provide uptime guarantees. Each organization’s data and user settings are backed up and mirrored in multiple locations, creating a disaster-proof backbone for your business communications.  Hosted UC providers also offer 24×7 monitoring, as well as the latest encryption and security protocols, so you can rest assured that your data is safe and secure.

4.       Disaster Recovery

In the event of an emergency or disaster, a UCaaS service provider can easily adapt to your changed situation without additional expenses on your part.

Most companies have a Disaster Recovery Plan in place to ensure that data and records vital to the operation of the business are duplicated or protected in off-site storage repositories.  UCaaS now provides the ability to ensure that business communications are also protected in the event of an emergency and can be incorporated into the overall Disaster Recovery Plan.

5.       Greater Mobility

UCaaS is a strong enabler for the mobile worker, the BYOD explosion, and remote/home office worker.  It allows users access to all business communications features from any registered user device, including a smart phone, laptop, desktop and, of course, desk phone.  Organizations can enable users’ smart phones to transparently bridge calls from the company’s Wi-Fi networks to cellular networks and back again, keeping  “on-the-go” and “location agnostic” users connected.  Desktop client software can turn any networked PC into a virtual desktop phone and unified messaging terminal.  Users can travel with their extensions, use video conferencing, and access advanced call forwarding and web-browser dialing. IT organizations often struggle with managing application across numerous devices. With UCaaS, users download the device application from the app store and IT can easily manage their access.  An additional user benefit is that the experience is the same across all devices.

6.       Increased Collaboration

True collaboration means anywhere, anytime access on any device. UCaaS gives your users access to applications that will let them instantly chat, set up on-the-fly conferences/meetings (both video and voice), share and exchange documents, and engage customers in real-time dialog. This will not only improve your workforce’s ability to be nimble, but will also improve customer satisfaction.

7.       Better Customization

UCaaS combines enterprise-grade voice features with sophisticated Unified Communications and Collaboration applications and hosts them in the cloud. UCaaS gives you the flexibility to choose the deployment model and applications to fit your specific requirements. It also offers the flexibility to expand or contract as your business requirements change.

Additional Resources

To learn more about how Unified Communication as a Service can help you take advantage of the latest UC technology, easily connect mobile and remote users, and free up time for the other IT projects you need to get to, click below.

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Putting Patients at Risk: Joint Commission Requirement Mandates Hospitals Fight Alarm Fatigue

nec-healthcare-alarm-fatigueThe constant ringing of multiple alarms and notifications from devices continues to contribute to the phenomenon called “alarm fatigue” that is putting hospital patients nationwide at serious risk.

Alarm fatigue occurs when doctors, residents, nurses, and staff become de-sensitized to emergency alarms and subconsciously shut them out. With some hospitals experiencing nearly 12,000 alarms -a- day, on average, it’s easy to understand why alarm fatigue happens and is dangerous.

For the last three years, alarm fatigue has ranked at the top of health and IT hazards list. The issue is so critical; in fact, that the Joint Commission, the leading independent performance standards certifier for healthcare facilities in the United States, issued a new National Patient Safety Goal (NPSG) this January, which requires accredited hospitals and critical access hospitals to improve their systems.

Alarms, if improperly managed, can do more harm than good for patients. If bad information—or in this case overwhelming information—comes in, then bad decisions will go out. The more data, alarms, and technology you have—the more likely you are to make simple errors. And in hospitals, those errors are proving to be fatal.

The NPSG Requirements

The requirements addressed in this NPSG became effective as of January 1, 2014 for hospitals and critical access hospitals. As noted in the elements of performance listed in the report, the NPSG will be implemented in two phases. The first phase is heightening awareness of the potential risks associated with clinical alarms, and the second phase will introduce requirements to mitigate those risks.

This NPSG addresses clinical alarms that can compromise patient safety if they are not properly managed. This includes alarms from equipment such as cardiac monitors, IV machines, ventilators, etc. that have visual and/or auditory components (in general this NPSG will not apply to items  such as nurse call systems, alerts from computerized provider order entry (CPOE), or other information technology (IT) systems).

The NPSG states:

  • As of July 1, 2014, leaders establish alarm system safety as a hospital priority.
  • During 2014, identify the most important alarm signals to manage based on the following: input from medical staff, clinical departments, and risk to patients.
  • As of January 1, 2016, leaders establish policies and procedures for managing the alarms identified above. The following should be addressed:
    • Clinically appropriate settings for alarm signals
    • When alarm signals can be disabled
    • When alarm parameters can be changed
    • Who in the organization has the authority to set, change, or turn-off alarm parameters
    • Monitoring and responding to alarm signals
    • Checking individual alarm signals for accurate settings, proper operation, and detectability
    • As of January 1, 2016, educate staff and licensed independent practitioners about the purpose and proper operation of alarm systems for which they are responsible.

Additional Resources

Alarm fatigue isn’t the only critical tech related issue that today’s healthcare professionals have to deal with. Mobility is constantly an issue for physicians and nurses that need to move between rooms, floors, and even buildings. Communications in particular can be a struggle for administrators trying to determine how to keep patients happy and equip staff to do their jobs—particularly when disparate systems don’t “talk” with each other.

Improving communications can actually help solve many of the other critical tech issues that hospitals are facing.  How? By using utilizing a clinical workflow solution.

A clinical workflow solution can help hospital administrators mitigate the risk associated with alarm fatigue. The solution essentially cuts the noise from all communications sources down, and ties them together in a logical way. It unites all clinical information systems within hospitals into one manageable program allowing for instant access to data, helping to reduce alarm fatigue while continuing to satisfy the regulatory compliance required when running disparate systems.

The unification of the communications sources enables care providers to more effectively manage their time and resources as they serve several patients simultaneously.

You’ll know you have found a good workflow management system when its base features include:

  • Lab Result Notifications
  • Nurse Call Integration
  • Report Availability Notifications
  • Device Messaging

In addition to intelligent alerting, workflow management systems should instantly connect healthcare professionals to each other and to their patients. These systems are designed to reduce overhead noise to help create a more healing environment, and to facilitate a happier healthier patient.

Best of Breed Healthcare IT Solutions

NEC is a leading innovator and provider of healthcare technology services, with more than 50 years of experience creating cutting edge technology solutions.

Download our brochure on NEC’s Clinical Workflow Solutions from EXTENSION, INC., today, and learn more about how we can empower your organization by providing enhanced communication tools that instantly connect your employees and patients along the care continuum.

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