B.C. health authority encourages intranet collaboration

Canada’s first provincial health services authority has implemented portal server technology that allows approximately 7,000 staff who are connected to the network to access company information such as human resources, supply chain and financial data.

The British Columbia Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), one of six health authorities in the province, worked with local consulting firm SoftLanding Network Solutions Inc. and Microsoft Canada Co. to deploy an intranet using Windows SharePoint technologies. The technology enables employees that have a common interest to get together, share documents and collaborate in real-time via a secure portal.

“We needed to find an effective and efficient way of making information available to all of our employee,s whether they worked with the cancer agency here in Vancouver or with Riverview Hospital out near Coquitlam,” said Ellen Chesney, chief communications officer for PHSA.

PHSA operates eight different agencies in and around the lower mainland area of B.C. These include B.C. Cancer Agency, B.C. Women’s Hospital & Health Centre and PHSA Cardiac Services. It also is responsible for selected provincial programs and services like B.C. Autism Assessment Network, Provincial Languages Services and Telehealth. PHSA needed a way to allow collaboration across its over 20 agencies and services running disparate network infrastructures, communications vehicles, desktop systems and shared drive structures.

“PHSA needed it to work in a way that didn’t require shared network drives or desktop configuration,” said Ken Pepin, project manager at SoftLanding. The Vancouver-based firm has worked with PHSA in the past for an a quality assurance review of its domain architecture, Active Directory and Exchange environments.

Last fall, PHSA upgraded its desktops to Office 2003 and Windows XP and its servers to the Windows Server System, completing the SharePoint rollout this spring.

“It’s a great example of sharing information that facilitates the rollout of that kind of process so that we can all benefit from the same work that’s being done,” said Chesney.

The ability to share information across an organization in real-time is a pain point across companies in all verticals, said Microsoft Canada Office System product manager Mike Bulmer.

“In the health-care industry, as they change, how do you make sure that information is the most up to date and most recent?” asked Bulmer. Microsoft Canada recently completed a similar SharePoint project at the Alberta Cancer Board.

But Pepin points out that sharing information on a portal server versus shared drives, for example, requires users to slightly shift their file-sharing habits.

“It’s the recognition that as a whole, particularly management, to come to see and recognize a new paradigm of structuring their access to existing data,” said Pepin.

In terms of controlling who has access to what data, Bulmer said IT departments can also choose to administer rights management technology to secure sensitive information on the portal server.

For the next phase, which will start in the fall, PHSA will build out agency specific ontranets that will connect directly into the corporate one. This will help PHSA streamline policies, practices, standards, procedures and forms across the organization’s administration departments that were duplicated upon PHSA’s creation.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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