August 03, 2012 - 10:43 AM
Did I get your attention? You are probably wondering how the cloud and healthcare are related. Well here is a little story based on real life experience. I am preparing for a trip outside the US – no surprise there – but this time I am required to get some vaccinations due to my destination. As fate would have it, the only place I could go is the County Department of Health (DOH) office which is not a problem as they are within a half hour ride from here. The true story begins upon my arrival which was about 8:30 AM.
When I arrived, I was cordially greeted and asked to complete a series of questions which of course is on paper. The responses would then be entered into the database which is a statewide system and as the person at the desk referenced, “in the cloud”. You see as 2014 approaches, the need to move to a digital environment for patient records and be compliant with Federal mandates nears and here in FL that apparently translated into a statewide DOH system. Here is where it gets interesting. I completed the paperwork and took my place among the others waiting their turn to be called in to see a healthcare professional. As the clock ticked, news passed on the TV, not much was happening relative to turning things around. After an hour or so, I inquired when I might expect to be called – after all this was a visit for only two shots and my thought was that this should not take long at all. The response to my inquiry was that the system went down and no data entry was available, but they were working to resolve the situation by reverting back the old way of doing things. I thought to myself, this is a good thing, not as fast perhaps but a sense of progress was in the air. Not quite so.
After four hours, I was finally called to a position where the person sitting in front of me was attempting to admit me by performing the data entry activity. I quipped, “I see the system is back online and things should be moving along better again.” This kind woman – and I do have to give these folks credit that during all of this, they were as professional and courteous as could be which is something I may not have been able to be myself if I were them – looked at me with a smile and said “It appears to be a cloudy day in our cloud and I am trying to beat the storm to get you entered and through the process before it all disappears again.” When I asked about the “old way of doing things”, she smiled and told me that part of their progress to the new way was to eliminate the forms and paper they used to use in the past, which of course meant there no longer was an old way to do things and she further stated that even if there was, only two of the six people there remembered how the old way was done. To make matters worse, once she had all of my information there was a delay due to the inability to print two barcoded labels needed to document the vaccines I would be given, which are placed on a paper and later scanned into the system. You see, until the labels are printed to be placed in their proper location on the additional paper and made ready to scan, nothing can be taken or given. The sad part of this is that until the system returned, no one could be seen or treated. While there was a contingency plan in place to account for this type of problem the tools and training were not. Given it is a statewide system, the assumption could then be expanded to say not only was this facility impacted but potentially every Department of Health facility statewide.
In my view, the concept of digital patient records is sound and I truly do favor a move in this direction as I feel overall it is greatly beneficial to the patient for this information to be available when and where it is needed. The challenge in all of this, and many implementations of cloud based applications, is what do you do if the cloud is not there? What is your operational plan should something prevent you from accessing the applications you have chosen? In this case it was to revert back to the old way but the tools to do that were removed and training inadequate which then negated the contingency plan. I say move to the cloud if it makes sense to do so but plan accordingly and anticipate a time when the cloud may not be there. Plan for the what-if scenario and train your employees on what to do but more importantly, provide the tools to carry out the plan.
If you are ready to move forward and are finding yourself stuck or unfocused and are not sure where to begin or what to do next, seek professional assistance and/or training to get you started. Be sure to investigate AIIM's Enterprise Content Management training program.
And be sure to read the AIIM Training Briefing on ECM (authored by yours truly). Click on the image to download and read.
What say you? Do you have a story to tell? What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have a topic of interest you would like discussed in this forum? Let me know.
Bob Larrivee, Director and Industry Advisor – AIIM
Email me: email@example.com
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This post and comment(s) reflect the personal perspectives of community members, and not necessarily those of their employers or of AIIM International