Big Healthcare Savings from Surprisingly Simple Solutions

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Even if you work in a so-called “most wired” American healthcare facility, I guarantee if you look around you’ll still find lots of paper forms and processes. Paper is endemic in American hospitals and clinics, even in those with fairly robust enterprise information systems and electronic medical records. Paper is still used for staff scheduling, HR processes, reporting, transfers, discharges, and all kinds of other tasks.

There are a couple of ways around this. You can ask your HIS vendor to automate a work-flow that’s still trapped on paper. But often the aggravation, delays, and high costs don’t justify the return; and that's if you can even get them to do small projects like this. You can also buy specialized software to solve these problems, but you just end up with a bunch more departmental applications in an already crowded and complex array of applications that don’t talk to one another.

That’s why I have been so pleased to learn what some of our most innovative customers are achieving with software that so many of them already own. This is particularly true of the way some hospitals and clinics are using Microsoft Office and SharePoint Server (MOSS) and InfoPath Forms.

One such example comes from Children’s Memorial Hospital of Chicago. Last week at our Healthcare Executive Forum event in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Eric Gasber, RN, followed me on the podium with a presentation that truly wowed attendees. Eric describes Children’s use of SharePoint as a solution that “begins where the enterprise applications end”. In example after example he showed paper based workflow, reporting, and collaborative processes that had been automated with MOSS. Most of these solutions were developed by Eric with little help from IT. He’s created solutions for time off requests, patient financial services, crash cart logs, meeting agendas and materials, service requests, and pre-procedural forms and scheduling for interventional radiology, cardiac catheterization, and anesthesia. Some of these solutions took just hours to put into production. Some took days or weeks. Eric soon identified “power users” in the organization who could develop their own solutions and forms.  “If they have ever created a form in Word, they have most of the skills they need”, he says. 

In some cases the return on investment from these solutions is measured simply by delighted clinical or business staff. But in many cases, Eric can claim real dollars coming from his work. His solution for Cardiac MR scheduling resulted in an 80 percent increase in scanned cases per month. Total increased throughput in Cardiology and MRIs have resulted in an additional $6.5 million to the bottom line. Eric attributes this success to the fact that the solutions he designs using SharePoint Server and InfoPath are fast to develop and implement, highly flexible, and very intuitive for end users.

This is another great example of how commodity software is being used to address critical business and clinical processes in hospitals and clinics, at a cost that is affordable. And that means more money for what really counts in healthcare; taking care of our patients.

Bill Crounse, MD         Healthcare Industry Director        Microsoft

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