Search for the Single Sign-On

April 10, 2013
Ball Memorial Hospital (BMH) — a not-for-profit hospital owned by Cardinal Health System, Inc. (CHS) that serves east-central Indiana — relies on the abilities of its physicians to provide the best possible care. But, minutes can be lost accessing numerous applications and searching for information.
Ball Memorial Hospital (BMH) — a not-for-profit hospital owned by Cardinal Health System, Inc. (CHS) that serves east-central Indiana — relies on the abilities of its physicians to provide the best possible care. But, minutes can be lost accessing numerous applications and searching for information. To increase efficiency and productivity of clinical staff, physicians and nurses must have the capability to research very quickly.

When our clinical staff members needed to know what patients to see on their rounds, as well as each patient's latest medical status, physicians were able to access information through only one client-server application.

Our physicians often accessed multiple Web-based applications, such as medical imaging, patient history, treatment schedules and administrative data — all of which required different passwords. Not surprisingly, the large number of different user names/passwords caused confusion.

We recognized that reducing the amount of time physicians spend searching for information by consolidating resources in a unified work environment would enable clinical employees to prioritize, organize and schedule their daily activities with the utmost efficiency. Our promise to consolidate the information sources doctors depend on regularly set us on a course toward integrated, personalized, online work environments that should drastically reduce information search times for physicians.

To provide doctors with a single source for accessing clinical and administrative information, we decided to deploy a portal solution that consolidated physician information through portlets integrated at the user interface. We chose Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM's WebSphere Portal tool suite because it offered performance and stability, as well as the control we wanted to expand and enhance the portal going forward.

Creating efficiency

After we chose the solution, the interface was personalized by medical specialty to show doctors only relevant information. It provided a single sign-on solution for several commonly used applications. The physicians' portal was the first deployed, and will be followed by a general staff portal that will replace the hospital's intranet.

The physicians portal can be accessed from any CHS networked system or securely through the Internet. The portal enables our doctors to determine quickly what patients they need to see, access the other Web-based systems used to evaluate each patient's progress and prognosis, and view their surgical or office schedule.

Working with IBM, CHS determined the physicians portal would:

  • Net a 100 percent payback of investment costs within 5.8 months,

  • Potentially save 15 minutes per day based on 50 CHS physicians using the portal on a daily basis,

  • Result in $720,000 in annual savings, and

  • Enhance productivity and processes for doctors. C.F.

Bringing information to life

We deployed our physicians' portal using a workplace solution based on IBM WebSphere Portal Extend for Multiplatforms 4.2 running on five IBM eServer xSeries 345 systems. The solution offers integrated access to people, information, applications and business processes in a single personalized interface.

IBM's Bowstreet Portal Factory provided accelerated portal development tools, which enabled us to cut in half the number of hours it took to develop portlets, allowing us to bring this project quickly to completion. The entire physicians' portal took only six months with the hardware and Websphere installation and configuration taking approximately six weeks, and the initial delivery of 13 custom portlets in less than three months. The remaining custom portlets and single-sign-on API's took an additional two months to deploy and test.

The implementation was accomplished by assembling a team of individuals that included an infrastructure architect and implementation specialist consultant from Atlanta, a local development company for the development of the custom portlets, and Bowstreet professional services for training, mentoring, and development. RAD (Rapid Application Development) methodology was the model for the custom portlet development led by the Bowstreet team.

However, the portal implementation wasn't without its challenges from both a configuration and development perspective. From the implementation side, the Atlanta consultant was offered the opportunity to co-author an IBM Redbook, and it was mutually decided to allow the consultant to exit the portal project early to take advantage of the new opportunity — which meant the collaboration modules were never fully implemented into the product.

Unfortunately, the following month the lead developer became ill, so the local development company quickly responded with another resource. The two developers didn't have much time for transfer of knowledge but performed valiantly in the face of such adversity.

The portal features single sign-on capabilities to several other Web-based applications, which eliminate the need for multiple passwords. For example, a patient's primary physician can log on from home, access the systems that can follow recovery progress, and leave for the hospital at the appropriate time when care is needed. This can all be done without the hospital staff having to interrupt patient care to communicate patient status to the physician.

The new portal has yielded incalculable benefits in physician satisfaction, reduced complexity and increased productivity. We have seen that the IBM portal platform is flexible and practical, and because it provides responsive, personalized work environments, there is potential for continuous improvement of our staff's productivity.

Boosting Productivity

We've started the next phase of the portal project. We are in the process of planning the upgrade to Websphere Portal Extend 5.1 as the base for the new employee portal to replace our intranet access, while implementing collaborative services for physicians. The capabilities will include instant messaging, team workplaces and people finder, allowing employees as well as physicians to collaborate for better decisions. We intend to take advantage of the Web Content Management 2.0 (WCM) that is now integrated with the Websphere Portal product for content management, although that new product is still an unknown as far as ease of use to the end publishers.

We expect to increase the productivity of 3,500 employees in this next phase. With Web self-service benefits, faster access to policies and procedures, and better collaboration among our staff, we hope to save two hours per year for each hourly employee, and recoup our investment project within two years.

Author Information:
Christina Fogle is manager of eSystem Support, Cardinal Health Systems, Inc.

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