20-Feb-2019

Several years ago, Mercy Ships started down the path towards becoming a multi-ship fleet once again. The desire was to bring hope and healing to the world's forgotten poor with greater impact than had ever been accomplished before.

As time has steadily marched on, this dream has become manifest in many ways. One of the core pieces, which I have been privileged to be a part of, is in the design, selection and implementation of the IT infrastructure technologies at Mercy Ships. Mercy Ships is an international charity which operates hospital ships in developing nations, and we are the first partner with which Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise has started working as part of the ALE Impact Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. We work with host nations to improve the local healthcare delivery system while providing training opportunities for medical professionals.

Doctor with patient on Mercy Ships

One of the vital core technologies needed onboard this new vessel is the telecommunications system. Our search for the right solution and vendor started in 2015 and continued well into 2016. We interviewed several vendors, resellers and partners in the process. We came up with a list of 5 companies who had technologies that could offer telecommunications on par with Mercy Ships’ vision, and the stringent requirements we laid forth in support thereof.

After weeding through technical details and comparing roadmaps, looking for supportability and compatibility with our mission, we had to ask the question, “who is going to be there for us and support us through these endeavors?” The answer was clear. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprises and our partner Crystal Communications had distinguished themselves well ahead of the rest. The solution offered showed they understand their customer needs as well as has the creativity and skill to anticipate possible future needs.

It is these qualities that we have continued to appreciate about working with ALE, understanding the customer needs and being creative towards finding non-standard solutions. That aligns with Mercy Ships in that we have had to grow accustomed to using non-standard solutions to accomplish our mission. I am incredibly grateful to find partners who can align with us and adapt solutions to fit our needs in the way that ALE has proven they can. It is more difficult than would be expected.

It was not enough to just provide a telecommunications system onboard though. ALE has done that, but a system that is robust enough to interface with the different systems we need, including the build of a unique system. The Crash Alarm system onboard the new vessel allows hospital staff to get the critical care and attention our patients need as soon as possible. Through some ingenuity on the ALE engineering side of the house, in conjunction with the crash alarm vendor, we have a system that can alert the appropriate staff of emergencies anywhere onboard the vessel (even off-ship should the need arise).

These solutions were tested and are staged for installation into the new vessel, but we have not wasted any time at other locations. We have started a phone system upgrade at our International Support Center in Lindale, Texas, USA. While this work is underway, we have sights on the future of our current vessel, the Africa Mercy where we will implement a similar solution as on the new vessel. Furthermore, we are watching the new solutions ALE is producing to see where they can align with the future of the organization.

At last, as we look to the future that Mercy Ships sails toward, the future endeavors of our organization can seem insurmountable. However, with the level of commitment Alcatel-Lucent Enterprises has shown us, we have hope of the right path forward. We know that we will be able to provide the level of impact we strive forward because partners like ALE are making impacts on and for us. 

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About the author

Jonathan Dyson

Director, Enterprise Infrastructure at Mercy Ships

Jonathan is responsible for all technology infrastructure across Mercy Ships, defining the direction and solutions that are required to assist the organization in accomplishing its mission.

 

 

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