Los Angeles County Department of Public Health uses Microsoft's
customer relationship management platform to rapidly develop niche
health-related apps when off-the-shelf doesn't fit.
The CRM platform was also used to create tools for inventory management for prescription drugs. The department's resulting Pharmacy Inventory and Labeling System, or PILS, is currently being implemented in all 14 of the department's community health centers, Green said.
Among other applications the department developed using the CRM platform is a case management system for the department's public health nurses and investigators who often work in the field or at the department's community health centers.
"Our case management has been an area that's lacked any automation or workload management tools," Green said. In the past, disease investigations involved "tons of paperwork and logging information into paper spreadsheets," Green said. The applications LADPH built using the CRM xRM framework help automate the assignment of public health nurses and investigators to cases, and then provide tools to help them manage the workflow of the cases. That includes built-in reminders about actions and follow-ups that need to occur in a case.
LADPH's past experience with custom application development included a sometime-random mish-mash of home-grown apps that didn't meet the department's needs, he said. "We've found custom development to be costly, time consuming, risky and that they don't get the traction we'd like to get," he said. "I didn't have the confidence we'd get the work done" using other custom-application development approaches, he said.
Still, before using a CRM platform for developing, Green advises doing some cost analysis first.
"Due to the high per-seat licensing cost for CRM, it only makes sense where the cost savings on the development side are substantial, or where the number of users is few, or where the users already have CRM for another purpose."
For example, "if I need to roll out an application to all 4,000 public health workforce members, for a low-complexity application that they will use once in a while, it's going to be cheaper to develop and maintain it as a .NET application," Green said. "If on the other hand I am developing for the public health nurses or pharmacists, who already have a CRM license, then CRM development is going to be cheaper-- as long as the project is suited to the platform."
"On the PILS and case management projects, I am certain we would have spent far more had we used traditional custom development," he said.
All in all, using the CRM xRM framework for building specialized tools, "we can get working software into the hands of the users more quickly so they can start realizing the benefits," Green said.
"It's much more about reducing risk and delivering business value more quickly," he said.
The 2012 InformationWeek Healthcare IT Priorities Survey finds that grabbing federal incentive dollars and meeting pay-for-performance mandates are the top issues facing IT execs. Find out more in the new, all-digital Time To Deliver issue of InformationWeek Healthcare. (Free registration required.)