IT makes a difference in improving patient care at Wyoming Medical Center

Editor's note: Today’s guest author is Rob Pettigrew, Information Technology Director at Wyoming Medical Center — the first hospital in the United States to go Google. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

As the IT team at a medical facility, we’re here to help caregivers keep people healthy. Google Apps for Work provides superb reliability and security so we can empower our 1,219 staff members and 233 partner physicians to provide exceptional care. The IT team can now focus on maintaining and improving nearly 200 clinical applications that support services such as cardiology and neurological specialties, instead of worrying about email maintenance.

This is especially important in a rural setting like ours. The state has only about 600,000 people spread over 100 square miles, and we serve as a hub of medical expertise. Even with only 217 beds, we can offer the same services as many larger hospitals by working efficiently. In 2014, we saw 9,000 patients, conducted 5,000 surgeries and welcomed 1,200 new babies into the world.

We previously used Novell GroupWise for calendaring and email, but it was expensive, difficult to support and suffered frequent outages. My crew often spent many late hours trying to get GroupWise working after a server outage. We considered other alternatives. Microsoft SharePoint was too expensive, as were dedicated applications for telemedicine and video conferencing. Microsoft’s cloud offering was a possible contender for email, but it was much more expensive and a less mature product than we would have liked. We made up our minds that Google was the way to go. We trusted their exceptional security and privacy procedures and signed on.

Switching to Google Apps has resulted in six figure savings year after year, including decommissioning multiple physical servers. The flexibility of Google Apps helps us collaborate in ways we never could before. Google Hangouts has helped us advance the quality and reach of care. Now clinicians in remote areas can get advice from specialists, such as our neurosurgeons and cardiologists, helping us spread the wealth of expertise across the state, We also use Google Hangouts to streamline the recruiting and hiring process. Candidates submit resumes by Gmail, and HR staff interviews potential hires via Hangouts.

Nurses also use Google Apps to communicate instantly. With Google Drive and Google Docs they discuss and share data on topics such as medication delivery, credentials, blood-borne pathogens, education and so on. With Google Groups, the medical center uses SMS email addresses to communicate directly to users’ cell phones for staffing requests, trauma calls and other communications that require instant responses.

Much has changed since I joined Wyoming Medical Center in 2006. When I started in 2006, reporting and spotting trends was difficult because data was trapped in rigid enterprise systems such as our electronic medical records (EMR) and human resources (HR) software. Today, we can surface and report on large blocks of data from our electronic medical records and HR databases by using Google Sheets. This agility is a big win for strategic activities like spotting population health trends. It’s clear that Google Apps has been among the most positive shifts in helping our IT team make greater contributions that further the health and well-being of people across Wyoming.