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Enterprise 2.0: Cerner Makes Healthcare Services Social

Brice Jewell, an Enterprise 2.0 presenter, explains how the healthcare services firm uses its uCern collaboration software to drive efficiencies and how its planned integration pathway promises even more.
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Cerner is a $1.85 billion global supplier of healthcare solutions, devices, and services with more than 9,000 client facilities in 25 countries around the world--including hospitals, doctor offices, ambulatory facilities, home health facilities, and retail pharmacies.

Enterprise 2.0
In the United States alone, 30% of the healthcare industry touches Cerner, and some products are considered medical devices and therefore fall under regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Cerner is taking bold steps to run some of its core functions on enterprise social software and seeing some early signs of success. Their use case is an excellent example that other large companies in regulated industries can learn from, but it also mirrors some of the challenges I hear from customers around adoption and integrating social software into the mix of legacy applications and processes. I had a chance to catch up with Brice Jewell, who heads up Cerner's social business initiatives under a program they call "uCern" which is built largely on Jive SBS and Atlassian Confluence.

Brice Jewell will be speaking June 21 on the Cerner use case for social software at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston.

Steve Wylie: Brice, can you tell me what uCern is?

Brice Jewell: With uCern, Cerner is on a mission to connect all members of the Cerner Network with the people and information they need, when and where they need it, to improve health delivery and the health of communities. Our vision is to leverage mass collaboration to innovate and reduce the time between discovery and adoption of new ideas that can improve how our clients provide healthcare, as well as Cerner's own business operations and products. We're enabling teams to work differently using new behavioral and technological approaches.

Wylie: What's the role of your team?

Jewell: I lead a team of internal consultants, analysts, and community managers that work with business teams across Cerner, helping them to adopt more collaborative practices and leverage social technologies to move the needle on performance improvements and key performance indicators across the business. The team also includes an engineering team that provides support, troubleshooting, and customizations of the uCern applications, as well as new application development for specific business purposes.

Wylie: Where are you seeing specific improvements in your operations?

Jewell: (Jewell cited several areas of improvements, as follows.)

-- Reduced support volume: While issues including personal health information have to stay inside our help desk software for compliance reasons, moving non-critical, more general issues out to uCern helps keep our support analysts focused on critical issues, ensuring the answers to common questions are available in uCern, and enabling our clients to get answers to questions faster through self-service. Support analysts have built hundreds of videos on uCern to support common tasks which have contributed to a 6% reduction in software support issues due in part to uCern. Additionally, people who are active on uCern have logged 13% fewer issues to the help desk. Our goal is to keep driving down the number of issues that go to help desk tickets.

-- Improved customer engagement: We're using uCern to engage with clients outside of regular meetings to avoid a lot of back-and-forth email exchange, to make our client meeting time more productive, allow the conversation to continue even when the meeting ends, and to ensure those who couldn't attend the meeting have a chance to participate. Doing so allows us to cover so much more in our client meetings, before, during, and after, and allows us to save thousands in printing materials out and distributing thumb drives to share files.

-- More efficient information sharing: Our human resources department, for example, is also using uCern to share information on health and wellness plans and enable quicker answers to questions. This is in contrast to old auditorium-style communications and mass emails. And through uCern they also get tremendous feedback from crowdsourcing new ideas and allowing people from all over the business to weigh in and make suggestions.

-- Better product design & product innovation: We're using uCern to get feedback on early prototypes from many clients simultaneously by showing wireframe mockups of new features and functions. For this part of uCern we're using Balsamiq for Confluence. Doing so allows us to improve the quality of designs and speed up the process of getting customer feedback on our latest developments.

Wylie: Have you integrated uCern with other business applications?

Jewell: UCern is currently a separate platform. Our primary strategy has been to improve current business processes by educating users to put information in the right application in the first place. We still have a customer relationship management application (CRM), enterprise resource planning application, file servers, email, and SharePoint. But data that doesn't need to be on these systems should be moved to uCern.

The next big step for us is in deeper technology integration with other business applications. For example, if the primary application you use during the day is uCern, you shouldn't have to leave that application to do a painfully tedious task like uploading client meeting notes into the CRM application. That should be done in uCern where the rest of the context of your work is done and where that information can be more accessible and available to a wider audience. We need to then let the technology surface that information into the CRM application as well as anywhere else it's needed. We're also an Office shop and are getting a lot of requests for better integration between Office and uCern.

Wylie: What's been your biggest challenge so far?

Jewell: Our biggest challenge has been getting past the innovators and early adopters and helping the majority of users to understand the business benefits of uCern. It's a good problem to have and our adoption numbers are actually quite high. Even adding more than 1,000 new members a month, we plan to have many more people using it and that's where Cerner's culture is on our side. We're an innovative company and eager to help clients, by being better and faster, but also by getting them access to more information and experts to help them be better at their work every day. That won't be enough though. We have to make it easier for information to find people in the right context. Personalizing the experience will be critical in order to sustain engagement and uCern's success.

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Boston to see the latest social business tools and technologies. Register with code CPBJEB03 and save $100 off conference passes or for a free expo pass. It happens June 20-23. Find out more.