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The Director of IT solutions at Hospital Corporation of America, the world’s largest private health care facility operator with 199,000 employees, has reported high satisfaction with HCA’s recent implementation of Cisco Webex, saying it “has exceeded even our expectations.”

Andrew Kerr, who oversees IT resources for what he called a “very large dispersed workforce” staffing 163 hospitals in 20 states, described his positive Webex experience in an April 24 Cisco webcast presenting Webex advantages in healthcare environments.

“The HCA population is diverse, they do different types of jobs, and we have 40,000 affiliated physicians,” said Kerr. “You can see the challenge when you try to reach out and deliver training or education to a population that big.”

Nashville-based HCA, which says it touches 18 million patients per year and delivers more babies annually than the entire nation of Australia, was already sold on distance learning and remote teleconferencing.  HCA staff must be regularly trained to use new systems, and, said Kerr, “success or failure may depend on training and collaboration.”

But user dissatisfaction with HCA’s prior solution prompted a search in early 2010 for a new web conferencing partner.

“We wanted easy implementation and rapid scaling with minimal disruption to our existing practices,” said Kerr. HCA also wanted to discourage individual operating units from procuring their own teleconferencing solutions, which bred inefficiency and solution overlap. 

“We hit a home run” with Webex, said Kerr, who emphasized the product’s Meeting Center and Training Center features.

HCA’s usage goal for the old system was 380,000 meeting minutes per month – but Kerr said Webex doubled that usage rate in its first full month of use and hit 1.3 million minutes in March 2012.   

HCA is also finding innovative Meeting Center applications that win plaudits from patients and drive higher satisfaction ratings – such as allowing parents of premature babies to check in remotely with their newborns in the neonatal ward, or delivering expert diabetes coaching to remote areas using a virtual coaching model that leverages video and VOIP.

As for Training Center use, HCA had been using distance training solutions since 2001, but Kerr said he saw new value in new Webex online-classroom tools such as course-scheduling capability that emulate the functions of a real classroom.

The quality proposition is as compelling as the cost-benefit analysis, Kerr said.

Cisco Webex runs on the Cisco Collaboration Cloud, a global network enabling real-time voice, data, and video-centric web meetings. There are four major components to Webex: Meeting Center, Training Center, Event Center and Support Center.

“These tools are very powerful,” added Josh Dolby, a Cisco Webex solutions architect who joined Kerr on the webcast, “and you can access them, not only globally, but from whatever device you choose.”

Dolby agreed with Kerr on the power and value of video in a conferencing solution, particularly for healthcare settings.

“Video adds that personal element, so it’s a lot easier to participate in “two-way street” conversations.”

Webcast moderator Mike Haymaker, head of healthcare marketing for Cisco, pointed out that Webex-based training and outreach solutions are increasingly attractive in an era of higher energy prices.

“In these days of four dollar-a -gallon gasoline, I’d be willing to bet your patient satisfaction ratings will go way up if you can find a way to take care of them without them having to appear in your waiting room.”

The live webcast, entitled “HCA Delivers Training and Outreach Programs with Cisco Webex,” is archived for viewing on demand here.

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