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Thoughts, comments, news, and reflections about healthcare IT from Microsoft's worldwide health senior director Bill Crounse, MD, on how information technology can improve healthcare delivery and services around the world.

Can Workflow Reengineering Improve Patient Care?

Can Workflow Reengineering Improve Patient Care?

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San Diego San Bernardo Inn 9-15-08 003 The past two days I've been hanging just outside of San Diego at the beautiful Rancho Bernardo Inn and Spa.  I was invited by Panasonic executives to deliver a keynote address this morning at a retreat for some of the company's healthcare customers and partners.  I was given the 8:00 AM time slot on the agenda.  The night before the group was treated to a lengthy cocktail reception followed by dinner, wine tasting and a cigar bar.  After an evening like that, I was genuinely wondering if anyone would show up for my presentation.  And just for the record, I didn't smoke any of those cigars.  I am, after all, a doctor.

Despite my reservations about the prior evening's impact on attendance, the conference hall was packed this morning.  It must have been the bountiful breakfast that dragged them out of  their beds.  Following my address on the impact of commodity software and the Net on medical practice, the president of Panasonic Computer Solutions Company, Rance Poehler,  reviewed the merits of his company's ToughBook line of laptop computers. image I must admit that I was quite impressed by the information Mr. Poehler shared with the group.  Healthcare demands devices that are not only mobile, but rugged as well.  We clinicians have a propensity to drop things once in a while.  Panasonic is projecting that healthcare will become a billion dollars business for the company, and I'd say based on the strength of their current and future product line, they're in fine position.  According to Mr. Poehler, Panasonic's devices have a failure rate of just 2.5 to 5 percent depending on model.  Yes, these laptops are a bit more expensive than devices from other companies, but according to information shared with conference attendees, many of the other well known brands have first year failure rates as high as 25 percent.  Even at 3 years out, Panasonic claims a cumulative failure rate of just 15 percent.

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The company attributes the low failure rate of their laptops to good design and the fact that their devices are "ruggedized".  They also say product quality is high because they maintain full control over their manufacturing processes; something few, if any, of Panasonic's competitors do.  Panasonic products are built in Panasonic factories. When you factor in total cost of ownership, Panasonic appears to be a good fit for healthcare.

In November at the World of Health IT conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, (where I will be speaking at the Physician Symposium) Panasonic will unveil their much anticipated Mobile Clinical Assistant device based on the Intel design; a device similar to Motion Computing's popular C5 and F5 models and solidly built with healthcare in mind.  I'm thrilled that computer manufacturers are finally rising to the occasion by bringing us solutions that meet the unique demands of healthcare.

If Panasonic's success in delivering high quality products to market is due to tight control of its manufacturing processes, one could wonder if healthcare providers could learn a thing or two by applying some of these manufacturing best practices to patient care.  It turns out they can.image

We have just released a new audio-cast in my House Calls for Healthcare Professionals series that examines how healthcare organizations can improve throughput and quality using workflow reengineering processes developed by other industries.  My guests include Dr. Christopher DeFlitch, Director and Vice Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Also joining me on the program is Frank Kapper, Vice President and principal partner of the Orlando Software Group along with my colleague Ingo Heel, Microsoft Industry Sales Director for LEAN.

Find out how Hershey Medical Center has applied workflow process reengineering to their emergency room services to optimize operational efficiency and improve patient care.  The program is available for streaming or  download by following these links:

Applying analytics tools to boost organizational efficiency and optimize patient care:   Streaming audio or MP3 

Bill Crounse, MD  Senior Director, Worldwide Health   Microsoft Corporation

  • I'm writing this entry from the World of Health IT (WOHIT) conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.  The

  • A February 28th article in the Wall Street Journal discusses the plight of emergency room patients at

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