A provider of electronic health records and other data for schools turns to a specialized data engine and private cloud to boost capabilities and efficiencies.
For schools, managing student health data is a tedious and time-consuming task. As a result, some institutions outsource the function. But that introduces other challenges, including gaining on-demand access to crucial data and reports.
At CareFlow Student Health Records, a West Chester, Pa., firm that manages electronic health records and provides reporting services for private schools in the United States and Canada, it was essential to establish an effective business and IT framework. "There are a lot of nurses and other care providers who aren't particularly tech-savvy but need data and reports in an easily accessible way," says Brian Biddulph-Krentar, founder and CEO of the firm.
In the past, CareFlow's staff fielded a steady stream of calls from nurses and other health professionals requesting specific information, including reports on everything from absences to a list of students who use EpiPens. This devoured huge chunks of staff time—sometimes from high wage employees.
Moreover, "Every time a request came in for a report, we would call our programmers and say, 'We need you to run a query for this information or create a report template,'" Biddulph-Krentar recalls. "The process was time-consuming and resource-intensive. We weren't using our IT staff and development team as effectively as we would have liked. We wanted to use them for higher-value activities."
CareFlow turned to cloud services provider DataRPM to introduce a self-service platform for nurses and other health care providers. The data analytics engine went live in July 2014. It operates within a private cloud. (The firm initially used a public cloud, but it switched to a more costly private cloud due to several technical and performance issues.)
This approach enables school representatives to obtain the information they require immediately via a secure Web portal. What's more, they can apply filters to view the specific data they desire. Users simply drag and drop the desired data field or element into a dimensions field to generate a report. It's also possible to view a compliance dashboard that shows instant results for immunizations, payments and other important criteria.
Getting nurses and other professionals to use the system was not difficult, Biddulph-Krentar explains. CareFlow produced three short instructional videos, including a 5-minute video that shows users how to generate reports and other documents they need. The firm distributes the videos via a YouTube channel. "It has been very effective in walking people through the steps required to get the information they require," he notes.
The results and ROI have been impressive. Since switching on the system, CareFlow's programmers have written only 34 reports—down from more than 160 during the peak back-to-school period in 2013. However, 30 of the reports required only minor tweaks, Biddulph-Krentar points out.
Meanwhile, staff time devoted to writing, testing and perfecting reports has shrunk from about 15 hours per report to near zero. "Programmers and staff are now spending their time improving the product and adding to its value," he says.
CareFlow is now looking to expand data access to mobile devices, including iPads. It also aims to provide additional data and reporting capabilities in order to extract value from a combination of structured data and free-flowing notes.
"We offer an easy-to-use tool that allows people to obtain the exact information they require quickly and efficiently," Biddulph-Krentar reports. "They are able to move beyond basic business intelligence and understand important trends that impact their health system."
Samuel Greengard, a contributing writers for CIO Insights, writes about business, technology and other topics. His forthcoming book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press), will be released in the spring of 2015.