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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.

Case Managers–ready for the ride of a lifetime

Case Managers–ready for the ride of a lifetime

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WP_000266Today I’m reporting from the 21st annual conference and exhibition of the Case Management Society of America (CMSA) being held in sizzling San Antonio, Texas (home of the Alamo).  This morning I provided a keynote address to an assembly of more than 2400 CMSA members.  The audience was predominately female, and shall I say kindly, at a median age of about 55 (or so I was told by conference organizers).  There was also a very large contingent of active military personnel representing all branches of our fighting forces as well as case management contractors to the military.

WP_000262Case managers primarily come from the fields of nursing (mostly RN's) or social work.  CMSA executive director, Cheri Lattimer, addressed the audience immediately prior to my introduction.  In her director’s report, she set the stage quite nicely for my keynote address.  She pointed out that it is not only doctors, hospital and clinic workers who need health information technology solutions.  Case managers must also have these tools to effectively communicate and collaborate with clinical staff, patients and peers across the continuum of care.  In fact, as she said, CMS meaningful use criteria in stages 2 and 3 will absolutely necessitate such tools for case managers as well as clinicians.

WP_000244Needless to say, getting technology into the hands of case managers hasn’t been easy.  Fortunately, as I discussed in my keynote, some of the very same tools that have served other industries so well are now finding their way into healthcare and case management.  One example is the uptake of customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.  I gave a couple examples of organizations that have upped their game by using Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a foundation for case management.  One example is work being done by Denver Health in managing patients with diabetes.  Another example I provided was that of Torbay Care Trust in the United Kingdom where community matrons use CRM to schedule appointments, report on home care, and collaborate with each other.

WP_000263Telemedicine and telehealth are also playing an increasingly important role in managing patients.  While this will never completely replace in-person home visits, such technology is an important adjunct to care.  For example, Wound Technology Network sends community nurses into patients’ homes to care for decubitus ulcers and other slow healing, complex wounds.   Visiting nurses armed with Windows smartphones are able to relay information, photos, and video to “wound central” where doctor and nurse specialists in wound care are able to provide guidance.  The service significantly reduces hospitalizations and the costs associated with caring for patients with complex wounds.

During my keynote, I also provided information on how telemedicine technology is being “commoditized”.  It now works on unified communication platforms like Microsoft Lync.  Web presence gives clinicians and staff a unified view of who is available and on-line, including their preferred communication modalities.  It facilitates moving seamlessly from instant message, to e-mail, to voice and video and even web meetings with full desktop sharing.  This kind of technology coupled with CRM is hitting a sweet spot not only in healthcare, but also case management.

I concluded my keynote with a look at some of the other consumer technologies that will impact the medical field.  This includes apps for smartphones and personal health record platforms like Microsoft HealthVault.  It also includes gaming systems like Xbox, Xbox Live, and Kinect.  While using Kinect and Xbox directly for health applications is still a few years away, there is already an explosion of new games that focus on exercise, fitness, weight loss, and other health-related activities.

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Case managers may be in for the ride of a lifetime, but from everything I could gather at CMSA’s conference in San Antonio (pictures above taken during my afternoon stroll along the world famous River Walk), they are more than ready to line up, get on board, and take advantage of the many ways information technology can better serve their clients.

Bill Crounse, MD                    Senior Director, Worldwide Health                  Microsoft 

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