Intermountain Healthcare of Salt Lake City, Utah, provides healthcare services across Utah and southeastern Idaho. To better meet community needs and reduce IT support burdens, Intermountain moved its public Internet site from a Java-based foundation to Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007. Intermountain customized Office SharePoint Server 2007 to replicate every detail of its site brand and was able to offer innovative Web features that benefit patients and providers. The number of content authors has increased from 12 to 150 people, and the eBusiness Department is no longer a publishing bottleneck. With a flexible, easy-to-use Web foundation, Intermountain uses its Web site more strategically to improve service to the community. Pages load in one second rather than seven, and the eBusiness staff has more time to develop new features.
Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit health system based in Salt Lake City, Utah, with more than 30,000 employees. It is the largest private employer in Utah and the largest healthcare provider in the region, serving the healthcare needs of Utah and southeastern Idaho residents. Its system of 21 hospitals, 100 clinics, and multiple health insurance plans provides a range of medical care at affordable rates.
||Employees are excited to use the Web to better serve our patients. Instead of simply helping patients find a doctor, we can help them across the entire spectrum of care.
eBusiness Director for Public-Facing Web Sites
Prior to 2000, Intermountain hospitals and health insurance companies created and managed their own public-facing Web sites, amounting to about 20 sites across the company. This presented a mixed branding message; required extra work for customers, patients, and partners in locating information; and worked against the company’s integrated-provider message.
As the importance of Web-based communications increased and more people in the company wanted to move communications to the Web, Intermountain centralized its public Web sites under a single domain and formed the eBusiness Department. The IT staff researched Web publishing platforms and selected a Java-based content management solution (CMS) that fit the firm’s price range. “Unfortunately, the company that provided the publishing application went out of business soon after we committed to them, and we were left without any support for this very complex, cumbersome system,” says Gene Smith, eBusiness Director for Public-Facing Web Sites at Intermountain Healthcare. “There was no HTML editor, and it was very difficult to find the asset you wanted to edit, let alone edit it.”
Because the program was so difficult to use, only about 12 people in the company became content authors, and only one person in the eBusiness Department really understood how to manage the software. Employees sent content to the three-person eBusiness Department, which quickly became a bottleneck in the site-refresh process. “It could take weeks to get new content published to the Web and months to create a new site,” Smith says. “Consequently, information was out of date, and we were barely using the Web as a communications tool. The two chief reasons that people visited our site were to find a job and find a doctor; there was not much else of use on the site.”
Intermountain wanted to add more innovative content to its Web site to make it a strategic extension of the company’s core healthcare mission. For example, clinicians wanted to publish diagnostic information; physicians wanted to provide links to an internal knowledge repository that described a variety of illnesses; and groups, such as prenatal care, wanted to post classes and events. “Linking to these separate content sources or creating interactivity required way too much work, so we just didn’t do it,” says Camille Wellard, Web Content Strategist in the eBusiness Department at Intermountain Healthcare.
Also, management was eager to make the Web site a critical element of the company’s engagement with patients and physicians. “For years, I wanted to have discussions with our strategic planning and oversight groups to understand how we could use the Web to achieve clinical service goals and grow patient volumes,” Smith says. “However, I never had those discussions, because I knew that they would produce all kinds of ideas that we couldn’t implement. We needed an underlying technology that would enable us to use our Web site to better support patients at all points in the care lifecycle.”
Between 2000 and 2004, the eBusiness team was consumed with helping employees acclimate to the new centralized Web structure and creating content for all areas of the organization. However, by 2004, the team realized that it needed to change the site’s underlying technology foundation. The company was too dependent on one person for site infrastructure maintenance and needed a more flexible CMS to enable users to post content themselves. “The eBusiness Department needed to get out of the content management business,” Smith says.
Affordable, Customizable Web Foundation
Late in 2006, the eBusiness Department started searching for a new CMS. Shortly thereafter, the company’s IT staff deployed Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 to provide easier collaboration and project management capabilities to various clinical and operational groups in Intermountain. The IT staff also decided to move the company’s intranet from Vignette to Office SharePoint Server 2007.
“We evaluated Office SharePoint Server 2007 for our public-facing Web needs, since the other groups’ licensing of the software would make it a very cost-effective solution for us,” Smith says. “We saw that it was much more than a content management system. We were very impressed with its built-in workflow capabilities, easy integration of online forms, Enterprise Search, and easy connection to external data sources, so we decided to move our public-facing Web site to Office SharePoint Server 2007.”
In early 2007, the eBusiness team brought in Statera, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner based in Englewood, Colorado, to help with the site migration. “Intermountain was looking for a platform that would save time while significantly extending its current Web functionality to solidify its leadership position in the marketplace,” says Mike Ellis, Principal in charge of Portals and Collaboration at Statera. “Office SharePoint Server 2007 was a perfect fit for their needs. After a quick proof of concept, Intermountain was able to prove out its concepts and demonstrate the value to the business.”
“Statera was very familiar with Office SharePoint Server 2007, from installation to the concept of Web parts,” Smith says. “We were a Java shop and really had no experience with the Microsoft .NET Framework.”
|Content authors use a “what you see is what you get” interface to create Web content.|
From November 2007 to September 2008, Intermountain worked with Statera to plan, set up the portal’s navigational taxonomy, structure the site look and feel, build out the security model, develop various Web parts for rendering different kinds of content, and create Enterprise Search scopes to multiple external applications and data sources. SharePoint Enterprise Search provides a single location for employees to find content, processes people, and business data. “It was really easy for me to come up to speed on Office SharePoint Server 2007,” says Jason Hunt, Senior Web Information Architect in the Intermountain eBusiness Department. “There were tons of resources on the Web.”
Intermountain was able to duplicate the brand of its previous Web site in Office SharePoint Server 2007, which represented a major monetary and branding investment. “We were afraid that we would be restricted to Office SharePoint Server 2007 templates, which would limit our look and feel, but it turned out to be completely flexible,” Hunt says. “We were able to freely customize the site without being tied down. We found that we could use Office SharePoint Server 2007 to do anything we wanted.”
James Ricks, Senior User Experience Designer and Developer at Intermountain Healthcare, adds, “Beginning with basic master pages, we rebuilt our interfaces from the ground up, customizing both the customer and administrator experiences. This resulted in a smooth transition for our users, from viewing to editing.”
New Content-Posting Paradigm
Creating and posting content with Office SharePoint Server 2007 is far easier than it was with the Java-based solution. “Today, content editing is extremely easy and intuitive,” Smith says. “We have inline editing, which we didn’t have before, and we also have powerful workflow that is very easy to configure. Users can set up permission levels and groups, so people are only editing copy that they’re supposed to. End users are independent of the eBusiness group, and the eBusiness group is independent of the IT staff.”
To simplify user training and broaden content publishing, Wellard created an Office SharePoint Server 2007 training site on the Web site that explains the content authoring and publishing process. This online training further empowers users and relieves the eBusiness group of end-user training responsibilities.
Easy Linkage to External Data Sources
Intermountain used the Business Data Catalog feature in Office SharePoint Server 2007 to integrate external applications and databases into the public-facing Web site. For example, the eBusiness team integrated information from a separate provider database into Office SharePoint Server 2007 Enterprise Search. It also linked its clinical illness data repository to offer a service called “Health Resources by Topic.”
“We never linked to these external resources on the Java-based site, because there was no easy way to make the links dynamic,” Hunt explains. “When the information changed in the external source, we would have to manually change it on the Web site. However, Business Data Catalog captures and replicates changes to these external databases, so we can share more information with site visitors without any additional work on our part.”
Intermountain also offers more powerful and helpful search capabilities on its Web site using Enterprise Search in Office SharePoint Server 2007. “Enterprise Search crawls all the pages on the site, plus our physician, health information, insurance, and facilities databases,” Smith says. “It also crawls other sites, such as specialty subsites that we maintain, on Kids’ Health, for example. It can filter on all kind of indices, so visitors can easily find all information on a particular topic that we offer.”
Intermountain runs its public Web site on nine servers running the Windows Server® 2003 Enterprise R2 operating system.
By moving its public Web site to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Intermountain Healthcare empowered more employees to use the Web to reach the community with better, more innovative healthcare services. Information is up-to-date, site performance is faster, and the eBusiness Department has more time to work with business users on using the Web strategically.
Easier Content Posting, Broader Participation
“With Office SharePoint Server 2007, we can create whole new sites in minutes instead of days or weeks,” Smith says. “For example, if a hospital wants a Web site, the eBusiness group sits down with them and designs the site map and page layouts, but they enter the content. eBusiness is no longer a bottleneck; we can respond to any type of request.”
Previously, only 12 people provided content for the Intermountain Web site, mostly from the Public Relations Department; today, there are 150 content contributors, from nearly all departments. Content experts can easily create content and preview exactly how it will look on the site. They also can define security roles by site area, so only authorized personnel are making changes. “Easier content publishing has led to an exponential growth in site content,” Wellard says. “There’s a lot more enthusiasm from people being willing to add new pages.”
Better Online Healthcare Resources
“We’ve made Web authorship so easy that employees will update their Web content before turning to a print piece,” Smith says. “Employees are excited to use the Web to better serve our patients. Instead of simply helping patients find a doctor, we can help them
||The flexibility of our underlying Office SharePoint Server 2007 foundation makes our Web site more relevant, helpful, and up-to-date.
eBusiness Director for Public-Facing Web Sites Intermountain Healthcare
across the entire spectrum of care: with healthy-living counseling and classes, information about specific ailments, symptom advice, information to help patients prepare for their hospital visit, and information to help them recover from procedures.” Patients can visit the Web site to view test results, renew prescriptions, view sections of their medical records, and communicate with their physician securely online.
“Now that we have removed implementation barriers, we are having discussions with strategic planners in the company about how to use the Web to achieve corporate objectives and improve our service to the community,” Smith says. “The flexibility of our underlying Office SharePoint Server 2007 foundation makes our Web site more relevant, helpful, and up-to-date.”
Improved Visitor Experience
Page-load speeds are now one or two seconds, versus seven seconds before, which provides visitors with a better experience and encourages them to explore more areas of the site. “By taking advantage of the ability to load cascading style sheets and scripts based on the individual layout pages in Office SharePoint Server 2007, we engineered a needs-based cascading style sheet and script system that loads and caches only necessary elements,” Ricks says. “This cascading, hierarchical approach eliminated almost 70 percent of the code required per view for our previous solution, resulting in a richer, faster experience for our users.”
“We also improved the visitor experience by increasing the accuracy, freshness, and breadth of content on our site,” Wellard adds. “We never really promoted our Web site before, but now we’re really proud of it and receive calls from other hospitals around the country that are impressed with our site and want to know how we created it.”
Better Use of Staff Resources
The Intermountain eBusiness Department still has the same small staff, but instead of being consumed with content management chores, it is focused on higher-value strategic tasks. “People don’t have to wait in line for the eBusness Department,” Smith says. “We are free to work with business strategists to improve our current site, create new subsites for target audiences, and research new Web innovations.”
Wellard adds, “With Office SharePoint Server 2007, our jobs have really changed. Previously, we were consumed with publishing and maintenance work. Today, we can focus on the things that we do best: our designer can design, I can work on content strategy, and we can all build cool new features that will benefit many sites rather than just one.”
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