Health System Pushes Integration Through Internal Web Portal

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You could tell they knew what they were doing. And the healthcare experience behind the product was huge.

The pages of DCH Health System’s intranet started as a uniform skeleton template and, five years later, morphed into dramatically different pages with no uniform look. Without a team to police the intranet, the pages were impossible for the four-hospital system to manage.

“The homepage became filled with an assortment of icons for many different initiatives, all competing for attention,” said Nancy Randall, DCH’s internal communication coordinator.

Though the intranet system was serving as a clearinghouse for the hospitals’ policies, procedures and standardized forms, content was hard to find on some pages, said Randy Carroll, information services team leader at DCH. Senior leaders decided that the intranet had to be included in DCH’s goal to think of itself more as a health system, rather than four hospitals.

“We’re in a different situation than a stand-alone hospital,” Carroll added. The four hospitals within the DCH system often were sharing resources and personnel, so information needed to be centralized and readily accessible across all sites. “We pride ourselves on being a system. We’re trying to develop that system mentality. Our old intranet was serving its purpose, but we needed to take it to the next level.”

With a new vice president as an advocate, the DCH information systems department chose’s intranet platform as the solution for a true hospital-designed, turnkey product. had more than a decade of experience building intranet platforms specifically for healthcare institutions — whether they were small, rural hospitals or regional health systems with more than 900 beds, such as DCH.

During demonstrations, DCH’s communication and IS teams learned about the intranet’s ability to achieve cohesive branding across the system, while still giving multiple department editors the ability to own designated aspects of the content. Policies, procedures, standardized forms and computer-based training materials could be centralized and made accessible to all of the health system’s associates, without shuffling through dozens of faulty links and without excessive training. The HospitalPortal system is also geared to organize information to prepare annual credentialing, such as visits from the Joint Commission.

“You could tell they knew what they were doing,” Carroll said of the demonstrations. “We liked the way it was structured, the cohesiveness. And the healthcare experience behind the product was huge. In health care you only have to hear the phrase ‘Joint Commission’ once.”

The intranet also allowed department editors to add content while keeping the overall structure in place, “so they couldn’t get crazy,” Carroll added.

Both Carroll and Randall remember the deer-in-headlights expressions that some associates had when they started the training sessions, assuming the switch to a different intranet platform would mean weeks of uploading content from the old system. “They were thinking, ‘Oh Lord, another task,’” Carroll said. “But they quickly saw the simplicity of the HospitalPortal intranet. They saw the ability to get things loaded fast; they could do all of it in one fell swoop and be done.”

DCH associates also saw how much fun the HospitalPortal intranet could be. The new intranet launched in September 2011 — with a Harry Potter theme. Randall used her hybrid background in communications and dance and formally presented the new intranet to management as “Harriet Potter.” She waved her magic wand and “poof!”— the new intranet magically appeared. The theme was carried throughout a six-week contest to get employees familiar with the new intranet. Harry Potter questions appeared on the home page each week, with a clue as to where to find the answers on inside pages. In a random drawing, prizes were given at the end of the contest to those who correctly answered the questions.

A weekly poll keeps associates constantly checking the homepage with questions like, “If you could have one superpower, what would it be?” (Most people wanted to fly.)

Since launching, the DCH intranet has had as many as 6,600 hits to the home page in a single day. Associates are able to look at information and announcements relevant to their specific site and those with systemwide relevance.

The next step is to push forward with more system integration. Carroll and Randall are planning to develop an excess supply exchange that will allow the system’s sites to request or advertise resources. If one department ordered too many bandages, for example, the intranet administrator can post an announcement on the intranet. A department needing the extra supplies can respond instantly. If another department wants to know a good place for a community event, others in the system can respond.

“This is the future of health care — integration,” Randall said. “Thinking like a system is the goal.”

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