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9/1/2010
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Wound Care Goes ToThe Cloud

GWR Medical decided more than a year ago that instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade and maintain its own IT infrastructure supporting its wound care therapy business, it would instead pass the baton to Verizon. That's when GWR Medical made the move to the cloud.

GWR Medical decided more than a year ago that instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade and maintain its own IT infrastructure supporting its wound care therapy business, it would instead pass the baton to Verizon. That's when GWR Medical made the move to the cloud.GWR Medical, based in Chadds Ford, Pa. has two main healthcare services offerings.

That includes topical oxygen therapy that field personnel provide to skin wound patients in home and hospital settings. GWR Medical has FDA-approved devices and protocols used to treat wounds--including skin lesions in diabetic patients, pressure sores, and burns.

However, in order for those treatments to be approved and covered by medical payers, such as private insurers and state Medicaid programs, patients' healing progress need to be measured and documented.

That's where GWR Medical's other business comes in. The company has web-based digital imaging software--WebMatrix-- that precisely measures wound surface areas, documents healing progress and generates reports about patient outcomes for doctors and insurers.

"The biggest concern in wound care is that different people measure wounds slightly differently," said Sean Geary, GWR VP and chief operating officer. So traditionally, when one nurse measures a wound, the healing progress might not be accurately reflected by the measurements taken by a different clinician next time the patient is checked, said Geary. GWR's web applications WebMatrix incorporate digital images of wounds--taken with digital cameras--and can in near real-time measure and document healing for reporting.

The software also allows a "detailed look in aggregate of outcomes, such as what treatments are most cost effective" among patients with diabetes," he said.

Among GWR's insurer relationships is providing wound care for patients covered by New York State's Medicaid program, said Geary.

GWR also makes its WebMatrix software available by subscription to other healthcare providers who use it to measure the progress of their own wound patients, even those not being treated with GWR oxygen therapies, said Geary. Those clients can run the software on their own servers or have it hosted by GWR via the web--in which case the servers are running via Verizon's cloud.

Verizon's systems are now hosting the servers and IT infrastructure running and supporting those wound care applications. GWR Medical's previous IT environment is used mostly for development work now, said Geary. However, GWR's production systems are being run via the cloud through Verizon Business' Computing as a Service, or CaSS, Geary said.

"The savings have been significant" in moving the environment onto the cloud, versus GWR Medical's otherwise eventual need to upgrade its systems and maintain staff to support those systems. But most of all, Geary said the boost in reliability is among the biggest advantages.

GWR customers--and the company's own field staff-- want reliability in being able to upload the digital images of wounds, and have that information integrated into patient records, he said.

"If I'm down more than I'm up, I'm losing customers," he said.

Also, because its healthcare information at stake, "customers want to feel certain their data is safe," Geary said. "We have a HIPAA business associate agreement with Verizon," to ensure compliance with federal patient data privacy and security regulations, he said.

As for Verizon, the healthcare market is heating up for its cloud-based services, said Mike Ruhnke, Verizon Business director for the mid Atlantic region. Among Verizon customers and prospects moving applications to cloud are hospitals, home-health providers, payers and pharmaceutical companies.

"We give customer the tools to scale up or down with a click of a button," he said.



Small healthcare providers must move fast to adopt electronic health records or they and the hospitals they work with will miss out on government funding. Download the latest all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government for that story and more. (Free registration required.)

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