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Enhancing IT Support at Children’s of Alabama

Enhancing IT Support at Children’s of Alabama

by Karly Orellana [1] | Feb 12, 2019 | Blog [2], Customer Stories [3], Hospitals [4]

The world of healthcare IT rarely sleeps. Critical data is exchanged around the clock so patients can receive the timely, urgent care they need. And if something halts or delays this process, an organization’s resources, finances, and ability to deliver patient care can take a major hit.

For an organization like Children’s of Alabama [5], the third largest pediatric medical facility in the U.S., this is especially true.

Children’s of Alabama ranks among the best pediatric medical centers in the nation, caring for children from across not only Alabama, but other states and foreign countries as well. They employ close to 4,000 people, and their IT department consists of 130 engineers who support over 100 clinical and financial systems for the organization. Needless to say, there is a lot of critical data flowing throughout the organization at any given time.

The Old Way

Originally, an Analyst from Network Operations monitored the engine’s interface display—among other things—and would notify an on-call Integration Engineer if any errors occurred after hours. While it seems straightforward, there were a number of drawbacks to the process.

For starters, the on-call Integration Engineer would often discover it was not an interface causing the error, but rather another system. When that was often the case, the Integration Engineer then had to notify the on-call Application Engineer of that particular system (i.e. lab or radiology), and explain the issue. This approach was unproductive and time-consuming because there would be a delay in the Integration Engineer responding, as well as the added delay of trying to reach out to the appropriate person to address the issue.

Another frustration the Integration Team ran into was that they were being called after hours for a system that was not meant for 24/7 monitoring.

“It was quite frustrating to be called in the middle of the night to log into a system and find out that it was a medical records system, or something of that nature, that was not even monitored 24 hours,” said Kent Spraggins, an Integration Engineer III at Children’s of Alabama. “And even worse, the support staff got conditioned and sometimes wouldn’t call us on an interface that actually was monitored—and that would cause problems.”

The overall process was inefficient, but all that changed when Children’s of Alabama leveraged the power of Corepoint Integration Engine [6].

The New Way: Phase I

The first step to addressing these problems was to customize the displays that operations monitored after hours.

With Corepoint Integration Engine, administrators have the ability to create unique User Profiles [7] by filtering what others can see and what activities they can perform, so they customized the monitor to only display the connections that needed 24/7 monitoring. Because they were only seeing those with around-the-clock monitoring, there was no question whether to take action.

Tailoring the monitor greatly reduced the number of unnecessary calls the Integration Engineers received in the middle of the night, and it was as simple as checking or unchecking a box in the user profile configuration.

“Because it’s customizable, we can give different groups more access and less access,” said Spraggins. “It worked great for us. It’s really a great tool.”

The New Way: Phase II

The next course of action was to extend monitor access to the different application engineers and ancillary teams. And because the monitor [8] is web-based, there was no impact to running the engine with additional users accessing the monitor.

This was done, once again, by creating user profiles for different groups that only display the connections pertaining to their specific systems or applications.

Additionally, they set up alerts [9] and email notifications for the individual or groups directly responsible for addressing specific systems’ issues. This streamlined the support team’s ability to contact the correct person and removed the Integration Engineers from being an in-between step.

Now if a 24/7 connection goes down for a certain time period, an alert will go off and send an email to the responsible party. And more times than not, they are already looking into the issue at that point.

What’s Next?

Since moving away from the “old way” of doing things, the reduced response times and call volume has greatly enhanced the IT support at Children’s of Alabama.

“We still have the same number of integration engineers here,” said Spraggins, “but they’ve expanded our role because we don’t spend as much time on maintenance on the engine… I don’t think there is one single person who doesn’t see the value and the return on investment.”

So what’s next? The team is exploring the option of replacing actively monitoring the engine with customized alerts to notify operations of any issues along with the details of who to contact. Either way, the possibilities are endless with Corepoint Integration Engine [10].