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Emergency Services Made Over with Unified Communications

June 15, 2015 by

In recent years, the medical industry has been implementing practices to streamline the care they provide patients. Through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' meaningful use program, health care professionals work to increase efficiency and improve patient satisfaction with interoperability of electronic health records and other technology. Unfortunately, not all parts of medicine are as productive. Emergency call centers need upgraded systems to provide a wider range of services to those who dial 911. Unified communications can accomplish those goals.

Improving 911 Services

Since 2000, the National Emergency Number Association has been working to create a more efficient 911 system, and only recently has it started to implement it in the United States. Next-generation 911 improves emergency services using IP telephony to deliver a variety of messages and increase communication, according to NENA.

The current system used by public safety answering points are composed of older, analog-based infrastructures and local networks that cannot properly perform in today's high technological society, the U.S. Department of Transportation explained. This prevents easy communication and collaboration between citizens, emergency services, and PSAPs.

NG911 solves those problems. Once fully implemented, it will improve response time and establish more flexible operations, the source claimed. UC solutions will allow for a variety of messages, including video conferencing, texts, VoIP, and images, to get through to PSAPs to ensure people receive the help they need. At the moment, it can be hard to trace calls from cellphones to determine locations of emergencies but NG911 will be able to track sites more easily, according to TechTarget.

"The 911 caller of the future will be able to communicate with whatever medium they choose to use," Walt Magnussen, director of university telecommunications for Texas A&M University and leader of the NG911 standards group for the National Emergency Number Association, told the source.

NG911 will also allow PSAPs and emergency responders to have access to a plethora of databases to aid in call processing, rerouting services, and incident management, NENA claimed. Others involved with providing help will also be able to connect to the NG911 network to support collaboration and a streamlined flow of information.

Creating a More Robust System

In early 2015, the state of South Dakota made the decision to implement a NG911 system in its 29 PSAPs. While it will only add text-to-911 capabilities initially, it will be able to receive images and video in the future, Urgent Communications explained. The state plans to upgrade all its systems within the next year before establishing a unified network for all PSAPs.

"It's such a huge change to our state infrastructure," Shawnie Rechtenbaugh, South Dakota's 911 coordinator, told the source. "It's taking it and totally revamping it to this new system and adding all this connectivity that we don't have and have never had."

Once the new IP telephony system is in place, there will be improvements in response time, collaboration, transferring calls, and communicating with citizens. With a variety of ways to contact emergency services, people will experience a more reliable 911 structure.

UC solutions provide health care professionals with the tools they need in urgent situations. Without them, quick response times and accuracy may be hard to come by.

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