Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

Summary: By enabling caregivers to file paperwork electronically with Windows Phone and Allscripts, First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah dramatically reduced mileage expenses.

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The Nokia Lumia 710 is one of the latest Windows Phone handsets; First Choice Home Health uses Verizon 3G devices.

Often, the simplest solution is the best solution for small businesses. That philosophy is well-illustrated by a mobile application that has helped First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah save more than $500,000 annually.

Although the healthcare provider originally consider notebooks and tablet computers for the solution, it turned out that the fastest way to get its clinical staff out in the field using the software was to let them use it with their Windows Phones. That's important because some of the provider's caregivers were logging up to 2,500 miles per years in mileage, just to come into the main office to file paperwork. The application, from developer Allscripts, helps make that process electronic.

"Computers felt like a barrier to the patient," said Beau Sorenson, CFO of First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah. "It didn't feel like a good patient/clinician connection. So we ended up working with Allscripts to find a device that supported the application.

First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah supports approximately 400 patients in four counties, through a network of about 160 employees (most of them remote clinicians). The Allscripts software that  First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah is using allows caregivers to file information about their visits by using an interface on their mobile phones. The organization originally tried out the software using broadband wireless cards and laptops, but the phones allow filing to happen much more quickly, according to Sorenson. What's more, he said it was easier to train staff on the new application.

Since deploying the beta version of the software application about a year ago, Sorenson said  First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah has dramatically speeded up the amount of time it takes to get Medicare reimbursements: cutting the process to 45 days from 90 days. The software has helped reduced employee travel by about 70 percent, in terms of the miles traveled to and from the office to file paperwork. The organization also reports a 17 percent in clinician productivity, meaning that they can see more patients with the time they are cutting out in administrative duties.

Overall, the savings so far from the mobile technology have been more than $500,000, Sorenson said.

I asked Sorenson to share a few tips for small-business owners or managers thinking about using similar technology to drive efficiency within their organization. Here are some of his thoughts:

  • Keep it simple. Sometimes the most advanced technology solution isn't the best one. While  First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah initially tried laptops for the Allscripts software, it got in the way of the patient-caregiver connection. Plus, the wireless network required for transmission wasn't always reliable, although it was fast.
  • Get executives involved. Sorenson, who lived in Japan for several years, said the plan for the mobile technology was discussed among managers internally for some time before deciding to proceed. By making line-of-business executives part of the decision, the technology was adopted more readily. "The most important thing is to make sure everyone is on the same page," he said.
  • Use early adopters as evangelists. Within your organization, there are likely to be some who are more enthusiastic than most about the new technology. Use them to help train and help others incorpore these tools into business processes.
  • Make the transition quick. Initially, First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah moved just some of its caregivers to the electronics filing process. This resulted in a solution that was harder to support than the original way. "As a result, we didn't realize the savings the way we could have," Sorenson said. "Try to do it all at once wherever possible."

More details on the  First Choice Home Health & Hospice of Utah solution can be found in this Microsoft case study write-up.

Topics: Hardware, CXO, Health, Legal, Mobility, Telcos, IT Employment, SMBs

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12 comments
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  • RE: Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

    This is nothing but an ad. If not it could be Any smartphone, on Any network. But once again ZDNet gets a PR from Microsoft and pretends its a news story Nothing to see here folks??? Move along.
    Rick_Kl
    • RE: Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

      @Rick_Kl / Ya know Rick accusations are better proved 1st, then put out to the public domain. It's much better to give positive feedback and keep it real and use references to back up what you say.
      intlnet
      • RE: Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

        @intlnet this is nothing but a Microsoft ad. Let???s see:
        1) Microsoft hardware: Lumia series phones. CHECK!
        2) Microsoft OS : Microsoft phones only run Microsoft???s OS. CHECK!!
        3)Microsoft message: Using Microsoft Products is the best way to go: CHECK!!!

        It has all the earmarks of a Microsoft ad. Lots of self promotion, and an unsubstantiated claim. So yes it looks just like a Microsoft Ad.
        Rick_Kl
  • RE: Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

    Great story. A real world case study of how Windows Phone 7 improved the healthcare field.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • RE: Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

      @Loverock Davidson- Agree - MOBILE solutions, whether it a phone or a tablet or other M2M devices, can revolutionize healthcare - especially community care (home care, hospice, personal care, private duty). I'm excited to watch where the industry is going.
      kklamont
  • RE: Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

    Some screen shots showing the data would have been great. Also some details of how they saved the massive $500K pa would have been illustrative.
    maxdev
  • RE: Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

    What about HIPAA compliance? Windows Phone 7 doesn't do on device encryption does it?
    John Hanks
    • RE: Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

      @John Hanks - the solution being discussed requires a VPN connection into the back end database from what I hear (don't quote me on that)...I think that might be how they are handling the patient data privacy aspect. the drawback is that the end user HAS to be connected to do their work in the field...a challenge for lots of home care agencies serving large areas - some rural.
      kklamont
  • RE: Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

    @maxdev@... The solution promoted in this article is not the only one out there. Of the options available, choice of carrier/device, ease of use, and technology platform/patents are the differentiators. the ROI though, is similar across the board - my ROI calculator addresses cost savings from mileage/travel reimb automation (note - the solution in the article does not automate mileage - they saw a cost savings from reduce travel to the office...imagine how big their $roi would have been if they had mileage calculator!), reduced overhead of processing paper, lowering the cost of healthcare compliance, and lowering technology costs vs. laptop or other client/server solutions. I often see ROI in 5 and 6 figures for my customers...pre and post implementation. So it's real and this article validates yet again the power of mobile. Beau makes good points, and while the windows-only solution does not offer as many options, agencies would be wise to heed his advice about strategy.
    kklamont
    • RE: Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

      @kklamont being this is Microsoft ad, the piece is only going to reflect the opinion of Microsoft:[b]One World, One Company, One OS[/b] Windows Everywhere.
      Rick_Kl
  • RE: Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

    Everyone,

    I'm happy to see people are interested in such a solution. It took many meetings and a lot of work, but in the end it was all worth it.

    To those of you thinking this is nothing but an advertisement, there's nothing I could say that would really convince you otherwise. Unless you personally went through something similar, it's just too daunting to explain the many factors that went into choosing WP7 to develop this app. Or why we are on the carrier we have. Or why we use mostly Windows servers. Just realize that the original MICROSOFT case study was, not surprisingly, written by MICROSOFT.
    ZukeA
    • RE: Mobile phones help small healthcare provider improve efficiency

      As for some of the other questions, I'll handle them as best I can.

      *HIPPA - Since no data is actually on the device itself, there are no worries about encrypting any sort of data cache. The connection itself is through a SSL socket which handles two stage authentication; 1) being the user, and 2) being the handset itself. Whenever a new handset is added to the system, it must be set up and rights given to it. If it is lost, the IT Admin (me) can sever all rights to it, much the same way Exchange and BES do.

      *$500K ROI - There are many factors here; laptop costs, cellular data plans, mileage, labor, and straight up time. By making the charting system available in the patient's home, clinicians are able to do everything they need on the spot. This allows them to better manage their time and get to the next patient's home faster. By chaining them to a laptop that may or may not be able to connect to 3G, we were halving their effectiveness.

      *Unspoken question, but I'll answer anyway - The best part of this story is, in fact, how making the solution so simple also helped the end users (clinicians in this case) more effective in their jobs. We in IT often think that things should be simple for people because it's simple for us. In truth, however, anything that takes more than three steps intimidates most end users. Instead of launching a laptop (and waiting), connecting to 3G (if available . . . and waiting), launching VPN (or our Citrix XenApp portal), launching Allscripts Desktop Client (which is a program not designed to be transmitted at such slow speeds) our clinicians would instead wait to chart until they got home that night. This led to many late night calls to IT (me) and late submits. The new system has two steps; turn on the screen and sign in. People faith in technology is restored, they are happier to use new tech when it comes along, and the IT department is no longer swamped.
      ZukeA