From therapists working with kids on the autistic spectrum to the finance department crunching numbers, Blue Balloon is rolling out Windows 8 across its small healthcare services organization.

Small pediatric therapy clinic commits to full Windows 8 environment

When it comes to running a business that helps children with learning disabilities, and operates out of five locations scattered across south western Ontario, Steven Taylor finds coordination of staff and collaboration between them of utmost importance.

The chief financial officer of Toronto-based Blue Balloon Health Services says the pediatric therapy service is committing to a roll-out of Windows 8 to help achieve a high level of cooperation across disparate locations. Founded in 2004, the firm is a for-profit practice that works with children who may need occupational therapy, physical therapy, or even musical therapy. Whether the child has been involved in an accident, is placed on the autistic spectrum, or otherwise suffers learning disabilities, Blue Balloon aims to help them develop more normally with a team of specialized therapists.

“Instead of parents have to go to lots of different locations to get their child cared for in an uncoordinated manner, it all gets delivered and managed under one roof,” Taylor explains. “That’s the unique thing about Blue Balloon.”

Since being founded, the private firm has been operating on open source software. But it’s ready to make a full switch to Microsoft. The organization is relying on cloud-based Office 365 and collaboration software Microsoft Lync to coordinate its employees with videoconferencing and instant messaging. With locations in four different Ontario towns – Aurora, Burlington, North York, and Hamilton – using the cloud-connected software is a must.

Now Blue Balloon is taking its Microsoft roll-out to the next level with Windows 8 installs for all of its employees. Most employees will be given a Windows 8-based tablet, and the accountants will be using it on laptops or desktops.

Microsoft’s just-released operating system is attractive to organizations because of its flexibility across different hardware types, says Stella Chernyak, senior director of Windows Commercial division for Microsoft. Employees coming into work at businesses have a certain expectation they’ll be able to work in a style that matches their experience with consumer technology.

“For companies there is tremendous potential to capture that enthusiasm,” she says. “Customers told us time and time again they are choosing between taking a laptop or a tablet on a trip. With Windows 8 you don’t have to choose.”

But for Blue Balloon, the choice to adopt Windows 8 goes beyond carrying around sleek tablets or playing nice with Office 365. It’s working with independent service vendors to develop custom touch-based applications that its therapists can use while on the job.

Working with PABAsoft, Blue Balloon will put an app designed for Windows 8 tablets into the hands of every therapist working with children on the autistic spectrum. The tablets and touch-based app not only guide the therapy sessions with the patient, but record the session to video. The app also generates a graphed report of the data entered by the therapist and allows independent review of the session by another certified psychologist – an auditing requirement if funding for the therapy is to be continued by the province.

“There’s a fairly high degree of scrutiny that whatever the organization that says has happened has actually happened,” Taylor says.

PABAsoft founder Marianne Hoffman demos her Windows 8 app.

PABAsoft founder and president Marianne Hoffman started her ISV after finding the method she was asked to use to track the progress of developmental training with her own autistic son to be inadequate. With a background in statistical science, she set out to design an app that would capture all the data points entered by a therapist working with a patient, as they were entered. Touch-based prompts are used to record test answers given by patients, and a supervising psychologist can review the session based on a dashboard that presents a graph, and video replay of each data point available at the touch of a finger.
Windows 8 tablets are ideal devices for her clinical app, Hoffman says.

“We need to create, capture, and collaborate,” she says. “We needed a device that was secure and durable – I can’t tell you how many iPads I’ve seen with spider cracks across the screen.”

The app is one reason Taylor has decided to go with a Windows 8 tablet rollout, and already has a few devices deployed to the field. Soon all of its 150 employees will be using the new OS, and using it to do the coordination that’s so important to their work.

Brian JacksonBrian Jackson is the Editor at ITBusiness.ca. E-mail him at bjackson@itbusiness.ca, follow him on Twitter, connect on , read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.
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