Health IT evangelists find help in the cloud

Cloud app to help HHS centers trying to sell physicians on electronic health records

The Health and Human Services Department is deploying a cloud-based customer-relationship management system to help its regional centers do a more effective job of promoting the use of electronic health record systems.
HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT created the 60 regional extension centers to assist physicians in smaller practices and in rural areas in purchasing and meaningfully using electronic health record systems under the economic stimulus law. HHS will distribute $17 billion in incentive payments to doctors and hospitals that buy the systems and achieve meaningful use.

Under a contract awarded in February, Acumen Solutions to implement a cloud computing solution from Salesforce.com at the extension centers. The cloud solution provides customer relationship management as well as project management.

The software will assist the centers in managing their relationships with the physicians, and also will provide HHS with a measure of those efforts, said Marty Young, managing director of Acumen Solutions.

The centers will use the software to regularly update the names of physicians in their region and to manage their interactions with them. For example, the centers will be able to identify which doctors have been offered assistance, how many have responded, how many physicians have signed contracts to purchase electronic record systems, and how many have attained meaningful use of those systems.

“A lot of what the extension centers are doing is marketing and education,” Young said. The cloud solution assists in tracking the marketing activities and responses, he said.

At the same time, HHS is using the cloud-based system to help manage the regional centers and audit their performance in achieving milestones such as the number of doctors signed up for assistance, doctors who have purchased systems, and doctors who have attained meaningful use.

“HHS is running this like a business. They are using Salesforce.com to manage the regional extension centers,” Young said. “Each regional extension center is treated as a separate business unit.”

HHS provided the cloud computing service to the centers. However, some of the centers already have customer relationship management systems, which are being integrated with the Acumen/Salesforce.com system, Young said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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