Nortel set to unveil health care offerings, ROI tool

New health care software part of a five-year development effort

Nortel Networks, still in bankruptcy protection from creditors, plans over the next two weeks to unveil new healthcare communications software and an updated online tool that adds the ability to calculate the total cost of ownership of business networks.

The products will be demonstrated at the VoiceCon gathering next week in Orlando and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society in Chicago a week later, Nortel officials told two reporters Thursday at a demonstration lab in Billerica, Mass.

The new health care software is part of a five-year development effort to build more vertical market software applications for its communications portfolio of switching, routing and wireless products, said Sanjeev Gupta, general manager for enterprise business solutions. He noted that a team of more than 200 Nortel workers have focused on developing and marketing health care software for several years.

Gupta noted that the timing of the unveiling of the new software could prove positive for the firm, citing the federal economic stimulus package that includes spending of at least US$500 million for health care IT tools, such as electronic medical records systems for hospitals and other health care operations.

"The stimulus package is good timing for all of us," Gupta said. "Our products are helping enable electronic medical records."

Officials said that two healthcare communications applications, based on Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology, will formally launch at the HIMSS show and are slated to start shipping as early as April. One package will allow nurses to make quick patient referrals after a hospitalization and provide for automated follow-up calls to patients. The second tool will let nurses find out online whether space is available at follow-up facilities.

Nortel has been shipping health care products for about a year. Those include patient discharge IVR technology that arranges for the automatic delivery of appropriate forms and the scheduling of transportation teams if necessary, Gupta said. That product has cut the average patient discharge time from six to four hours, he noted.

The company also offers an RFID-based system that can locate expensive hospital equipment quickly, and will soon be updated to automatically notify personnel in case of an emergency. The updated software will notify the closest qualified personnel, who can provide their availability via a wireless Voice over IP phone, Gupta said.

At VoiceCon, Nortel will unveil an update to a tool that can measure a business network's energy consumption. The updated tool can now also calculate the total cost of ownership of an existing or planned networknergy efficiency tool that it unveiled at Interop last June, said Net Payne, leader of global services solutions and marketing.

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