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Primary rate makes applications happen at Atlanta hospital.

Use of primary rate ISDN has opened doors this year at Crawford Long Hospital in downtown Atlanta.

The hospital, a division of Emory University, has used primary rate from AT&T for two years, but has had it available from Southern Bell only since January. The local telco connection has made a real difference, says Joe Massey, who runs the telecommunications operation at the hospital.

Massey is a consultant (he operates JTM Associates) who functions as telecomm director for Crawford Long. He has been itching to use ISDN at the hospital for years.

"About three years ago, when it became apparent that ISDN primary rate technology was going to be viable, I started pushing the operating telephone company to get it for us," he says. "One of my frustrations is that the operating companies have been talking ISDN for more than five years, but it wasn't until January that we got a tariff from Southern Bell."

Massey says it first appeared that the tariff would be on a take-it-or-leave-it measured service basis--and he gave the telco a piece of his mind on that--but it came in with a choice of flat or measured rates. Crawford Long chose the flat rate and become the first tariffed customer in Georgia, Massey says.

The hospital uses eight primary rate T-spans and receives about 300,000 calls a month, with a similar number of outgoing calls.

A main application of the primary rate service is the delivery of Automatic Number Identification. Massey says the hospital has had that from AT&T on the 800 number for two years, but "there was not sufficient traffic and information from only the WATS standpoint to develop applications. Now there is, with the local calling information, since the majority of patients here do come from the metro area."

Within a year, Massey says, the hospital plans to automate the process of routing calls based on calling number information. There is some call routing now on that basis, but it is done manually, by receptionists who have lists of flagged numbers.

The hospital also provides SID, or station identification numbers, on out-going calls. People with calling number displays on their home phones can see the actual number of the station rather than the generic PBX number. Massey says there was a bit of concern about that among doctors, who didn't particularly want their direct-dial numbers displayed. Massey says personally he has no problem with that, but he reassured the medical staff that their secretaries would end up screening calls anyway.

Provision of SID has other benefits. Previously, the hospital had to block access to all 700 and 900 numbers, because it was difficult to provide accurate billing. Now, by sending the station ID to the telco, which will bill the call based on SID, Crawford Long can allow access for legitimate numbers such as 900-number software support lines. The PBX is instructed to block all 900 calls except for the legitimate numbers, which are programmed in as exceptions.

"Some other applications we would like to develop deal with access of databases by physicians and other authorized personnel, using their calling number as the first security test," says Massey. He adds that the next step is basic rate (BRI) applications in doctors' offices and residences to give them high-speed access to databases and for diagnostic image transmission. The lack of ubiquitous BRI ISDN stands in the way of that plan, though.

Asked if 128 kb@s would be fast enough for that kind of imaging, Massey says yes, that doctors would be glad to wait a few minutes for an image to transmit rather than have to spend time driving to the hospital to see the same thing.

"The bottom line is that if you don't try to implement something today because it may be obsoleted by what we can conceive, you will never buy anything. You will always wait until tomorrow," says Massey. "Until we learn to crawl, there will be no demand for bigger and greater. Basic rate is probably one of the faster ways today to get there."

There are some other benefits to the delivery of local calling line identification, Massey says.

"Within three hours of our cutover on Jan. 20, we had the number of an obscene caller who had plagued our switchboard for six months. Since we are a 24-hour operation, we considered calling that number every 15 minutes...but decided not to. We turned it over to security."

Incidentally, for anyone planning to attend the ACUTA (Association of College and University Telecommunications Administrators) conference in Nashville this month, Massey will lead a seminar on ISDN based on Crawford Long's experience.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:ISDN Forum; primary rate integrated services digital networks; Crawford Long Hospital
Author:Tanzillo, Kevin
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Column
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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