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Microsoft, Penn State Hershey Medical Center Showcase Road Map to Patient Flow Efficiencies at First Healthcare Provider Symposium


Institutions nationwide share IT approaches and advances to address major healthcare challenges including performance management, patient flow and chronic condition treatment.

REDMOND, Wash. — In the midst of a season of renewed focus on solving big healthcare challenges in the United States, healthcare providers from across the country are convening this week at Microsoft Corp.’s corporate headquarters in Redmond, Wash., for the first U.S. Public Sector Healthcare Provider Symposium. Symposium attendees are examining ways to apply information technology (IT) innovations to solve real-world problems in their clinical, business and research settings. From the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to Penn State’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and many others, healthcare IT leaders will examine the latest business system improvements including performance management, unified intelligence, chronic condition management, personal health platforms and patient flow management, all made possible by leveraging commercial off-the-shelf technologies.

“One critical role of technology in the healthcare industry is to better enable and empower the nurses, doctors and staff who are providing caring environments for patients,” said Curt Kolcun, vice president of Microsoft U.S. Public Sector. “This symposium showcases the innovation taking place within clinical, research and business healthcare settings — innovations that will evolve the industry into one that is more collaborative, data-driven and results-oriented without breaking the bank.”

Microsoft Patient Flow Management Solutions

Enhanced workplace performance and usable data is needed most acutely in the area of hospital patient workflows, which have strategic and financial consequences. Variation in patient flow occurs throughout a hospital and contributes to such problems as extended wait times, overcrowding and boarding in the emergency department or post-anesthesia care units, bumped and late surgeries in the operating room, lack of available inpatient and intensive care unit beds, overburdened staff and physicians, and delays in providing care to patients.

As many providers know, emergency departments, intensive care units and hospital hallways become inappropriate and expensive holding areas when patients are not transferred to an inpatient unit in a timely manner. When delays or overcrowdings occur, incoming patients experience delays in receiving care or leave without being treated. Evidence of poorly managed patient flow often surfaces first in the emergency department, critical care units and surgical areas, but can be found throughout the hospital.

One example of where Microsoft and its partner ecosystem are already helping to solving such problems is at the Department of Emergency Medicine at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Penn State Hershey Medical Center employs more than 350 people and every year has nearly 50,000 emergency room visits — on average, about 135 patients per day. With help from Microsoft and certified partner Orlando Software Group Inc., the medical center successfully used ProcessView, an add-in to Microsoft Office Visio Professional 2007, to analyze and improve process workflow for patients with chest pains, examining each decision point in a patient’s diagnosis and treatment plan and assigning probabilities to those points. The program’s algorithms then identified every unique workflow path and determined the probability of occurrence for each, resulting in improved resource allocation, a more efficient workflow, and an improved standard of patient care.

“Without an analytics tool, people who understand process flow can make educated guesses about where the bottlenecks are and what changes to make in the system, but guesses are not true analytics,” said Dr. Christopher DeFlitch, vice chair for the Department of Emergency Medicine, and chief medical information officer at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. “Even slight changes can cost hospitals millions of dollars and potentially make patients vulnerable.”

“In about three hours, we were able to create a top-level process flow diagram for the overall process,” said Frank Kapper, vice president and principal partner of Orlando Software Group. “With this information the department could focus on the highest occurrence of workflows and make sure it had the proper staffing, equipment and supplies.”

Hershey is now taking the analytical process a step farther with future plans to establish a business process management framework to streamline and monitor performance, in addition to employing predictive analysis to anticipate and solve potential patient flow problems before they occur. Using Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006 HL7 adapters to incorporate real-time quantitative data into the OSGi ProcessView analytics engine and using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to produce an Organizational Excellence Portal, Hershey’s ability to manage and monitor patient flow outcomes will be further enhanced, helping to maximize hospital resources and improve patient care.

More information on Microsoft’s patient flow work with Hershey Medical Center can be found at

Additional information on Microsoft Health Solutions can be found at

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