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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.

Saving time, saving money, saving lives–a look at two health industry solutions half a world apart

Saving time, saving money, saving lives–a look at two health industry solutions half a world apart

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Egypt and Utah - two places half a world apart that may not have much in common.  But two new case studies from Microsoft demonstrate how technology can be applied almost anywhere in the world to improve health and human services, while saving time and money.

imageThe first example comes from the Egyptian Ministry of Health.  As part of the Ministry, the Egyptian Ambulance Organization (EAO) coordinates and provides free emergency medical services to the country’s 83 million citizens. In addition to its headquarters in Cairo, the organization has seven regional offices, a fleet of almost 3,000 emergency vehicles, and a staff of 7,000 employees.  In the past, the organization’s aging fleet of vehicles and paper-based management system caused inefficiencies and service delays that sometimes meant waiting an hour or more when an ambulance was called.  More recently, the EAO replaced its fleet with 1800 new vehicles including boats, helicopters and planes.  It also improved distribution by placing the vehicles around landmarks in major cities.  This significantly reduced the time it took for vehicles to make their way through busy city traffic in order to reach the site of an emergency.

imageBut the real improvement in system efficiency and response times came when the EAO replaced its paper-based management system with a modern solution from Softec International , creator of the Altair fleet management system.  Altair has a highly visual, multilingual interface to easily manage vehicles, crews, and other assets, and it integrates with GPS devices to track vehicles, routes, and driving speeds. The Altair system is a flexible and scalable application that was built using the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 development system, the Microsoft .NET Framework , and Microsoft SQL Server data management software.

Today, typical ambulance response times are within 5 or 6 minutes of a call.  The fleet management system ensures that all vehicles are kept in good working order, and it can monitor the status and availability of all ambulances and personnel to make the best choices about which vehicles and staff to put into service and where to locate them.  The electronic solution has significantly simplified the task of running the agency and the EAO believes that improved fleet management will result in substantial cost savings in coming years.  You can read the full case study here. 

imageThe second case study I want to draw to your attention comes from First Choice Home and Hospice in Utah.  Like many such organizations in the US today, First Choice Home and Hospice was experiencing a significant 30 percent drop in revenues.  The organization saw declining reimbursements and steadily increasing expenses with no end in sight.  The only way they could stay in business was by increasing productivity and decreasing costs.  But how?

imageFor relief, First Choice turned to Allscripts and the company’s Allscripts Mobile Homecare™ solution on Windows Phone 7.  The solution is a phone app that combines time and attendance functionality with clinical electronic health record access and documentation that’s specifically designed for home health aides and similar paraprofessional staff.  Since moving to the solution, First Choice reports that it has succeeded in boosting efficiency and reducing costs. First Choice says it is saving $500,000 a year, has reduced hospitalizations by 4 percent, and has improved cash flow by 100 percent.  That is something to shout about!  For a full review of how and why the solution is contributing to the organization’s success, you can read the full case study here.

So there you have it.  Two solutions, half a world apart, saving time, saving money and saving lives, and both with something in common.  Both solutions built with Microsoft and Microsoft partner technologies.  Who’s next?

Bill Crounse, MD                        Senior Director, Worldwide Health             Microsoft 

  • In these hard economic times many business are struggling to stay afloat.  Businesses like the Utah hospice company mentioned in this article are struggling to stay in business.  I like the idea of the Allscripts app, and was surprized to hear that it boosted their efficiency so well.  I am part of a Salt Lake City hospice company and anything that could help to widen the gap between scraping by and making a good living would be fantastic. www.lighthousehospice.biz

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