Partners HealthCare creates instant communications

COMPANY: Partners HealthCare System Inc.
PURPOSE: To ensure up-to-the-minute information regarding the location of Partners' employees, as well as their availability

APPLICATION: Partners Enterprise Communications Directory (PECD) -- Partners HealthCare System Inc., an integrated healthcare delivery network based in Boston, includes large institutions such as Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, North Shore Medical Center, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, as well as physician and clinician centers throughout Massachusetts. With tens of thousands of employees in the Partners network, the need for instantaneous, dependable communication was not only mission-critical, but sometimes life-critical.

About two-and-a-half years ago, the wheels were set in motion for the Partners Enterprise Communication Directory (PECD). While the systems at the various institutions in the network were different, the common denominator was that everyone had access to a browser, said John McLatchey, corporate manager of applied technology. That was the starting point.

The first component of the PECD went live via an intranet application, which provided an electronic directory that was accessible through a Web browser. Because the system is Web-based, it can run on any workstation throughout the network. From the directory, information such as telephone numbers, fax numbers, cell phone numbers and the location of an employee at any given time can be accessed. E-mails or pages were initiated from the system during the next phase of the project. And within the last year, department organization has been added. "We think it's a centralized way of getting to people," said Amy Kennedy, project leader.

InterSystems Corp.'s Caché post-relational DBMS was used as the underlying database technology. Using Caché, a centralized server was developed to contain meta data that describes the data on the 12 Caché Web servers that support the hospitals' intranet. Developers used standard HTML scripting techniques to expose the application to a wide variety of HTML browsers. Development of server components was enhanced with InterSystems' Caché scripting language and Caché WebLink.

In terms of security, users can mark certain information as confidential, said McLatchey. Users are also given the ability to edit individual data, allowing for up-to-the-minute information.

The greatest benefit has been the saving of time and money. "The fact that at any PC in the hospital you can enter an alphanumeric page and change your status, as opposed to having to call and wait on the phone for someone in the call center to perform that function -- that's certainly a time savings," Kennedy said. In return, the system saves the paging budget thousands of dollars monthly.

The standard browser is Microsoft's Internet Explorer, but one of the biggest challenges was to "try to deliver the most functionality we could, but to be able to support it on a myriad of different browsers," said Steve Clay, lead system designer.

Feedback has been positive so far, Clay said. In some cases, people are unaware of the capabilities they have. But users can find out how to operate the system by exploring, added McLatchey. "That's the beauty of most of these Web apps. People seem to figure them out pretty easily."

-- Jennifer Lancione

TEAM

Amy Kennedy

John McLatchey

Steve Clay

Kathleen Monbouquette

BENEFITS:
Short-term benefits are real-time delivery of key clinical information, improved control/time management and immediate cost savings to Partners' paging budget. Long-term benefits include the ability to extend paging and automated location services to multiple institutions, and improving the overall quality and speed of healthcare delivery while cutting information technology costs


TOOLS:
HTML scripting techniques;
InterSystems Corp.'s Caché scripting language, Caché WebLink and Caché post-relational DBMS; and Microsoft Visual Basic


PLATFORMS:
Windows NT

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