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Pajama productivity: ISDN in Omaha.


When the phone rang at 2 a.m., software troubleshooters for clarkson Hospital, Omaha, used to get dressed and drive to the office. Now they stay in their PJs.

ISDN links the home of four employees to the software-maintenance department at this 650-bed general hospital specializing in organ transplants and laser surgery.

The work-at-homers keep two LANs--an Ethernet and a token ring--on-line during the wee hours. In their living rooms, US West has installed ISDN BRI equipment from AT&T NEtwork Systems.

"Two to three minutes of slowness is the worst the user sees," says Medical Center Technical Support Manager Ed McPherson. Better than a hour to get the employee dressed and to the hospital.

It's hard to predict when transplants will happen. Medical records must always be up-to-the-minute and easily available. The system operates in real time at all hours, but midnight to 4 a.m. is prime time, when forward recovery, backup, and computerized charting are done.

Switching is remote. The nearest US West central office, Franklin, isn't equipped yet for ISDN, so a BRI carrier link connects Franklin to the Douglas CO, where a 5ESS switch is installed.

The IBM side is synchronous, with circuit-switched data. The DEC is asynchronous, with packet-switched data

Three troublehooters are plugged into the token ring, which operates billing, admissions, production, and other administrative packages.

A specialist is hooked up to the Ethernet for such scientific applications as blood testing and pathology.

When night-time problems appear, Clarkson's software-maintenance department calls one of the on-line experts at home. The specialist hops onto a home terminal linked to a 7506 ISDN headset.

By getting to the data immediately, and talking to the department while looking at the screen, the work-at-homer can avert a crash.

Work-at-home began with a US West market trial. During the three-month test period, one work-at-homer was connected to the IBM system, the other to the VAX.

Two ISDN scanned imaging applications were also evaluated. In one, images of prescriptions were sent from nurses' stations to the pharmacy. In the other, doctors at an affiliated madical clinic sent X-ray images to a radiologist at Clarkson. "The imaging was of high quality," says McPherson.

At the end of the trial, McPherson extended work-at-home to two additional troublehooters, who live where ISDN switching is available. As the switching becomes more ubiquitous, others will join the ISDN network.

"I'd just as soon let even our high-demand technical people work at home as have them get into their business suits," McPherson says. "In four or five hours at home, they can accomplish more than they could in eight hours at the office." ISDN might eventually replace the two fiber-optic lines that now serve as the system's backbone.

It could also be a desktop remedy. McPherson likes ISDN's portability. It eliminates the need for coaxial cable. Through modular connections, the PC or terminal pops into the headset, and the headset snaps into the wall. This kind of wiring would be a real advantage at Clarkson, he says. To move equipment from one office to another, the user now goes through a complex process involving 12 steps and three departments.

"Today, these arrangements are unnecessary," he says. With ISDN in place, users could just unplug the hardware, pick it up, and carry it along with them.

Everyone would benefit, he adds. Users would gain control over their environments, and computer experts would win time to do their real jobs.

At this point, though, McPherson is concentrating on work-at-home. "Through our work-at-home program." he says, "we build credibility for ISDN."
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
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Title Annotation:includes a related article on hospitals
Author:Emigh, Jacqueline
Publication:Communications News
Date:Dec 1, 1990
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