Changes to IT and culture bring new health to MedicAlert.
by Alison Weiss, November 2013
The Ohlone 50k Wilderness Run traces 31 miles of rough terrain, across trails and fire roads near Livermore, California. During the 2012 run, temperatures rose past 90 degrees Fahrenheit—and in that demanding environment, a runner collapsed and fell unconscious on the course. Race officials and onsite emergency staff leapt into action but struggled to ascertain information about the runner’s health, using valuable time to diagnose and treat the runner.
But the 2013 race was different. Well aware that in emergency situations every second counts, Ohlone Wilderness Run organizers partnered with MedicAlert Foundation International to provide a complimentary MedicAlert ID shoe tag to all race participants, as well as a one-year subscription to MedicAlert’s 24/7 Emergency Identification and Medical Information Network. With the support of MedicAlert’s services, first responders at the race had quick access to each runner’s critical personal, medical, and health data—including allergies and appropriate emergency contacts.
At the race, as in life, preparation is critical. “No one ever anticipates being in an emergency. But when you’re in one, you’re at your most vulnerable,” observes Karen Lamoree, COO at MedicAlert Foundation. “When it happens, it’s really nice to have somebody who actually knows your medical information, to make sure that you get the best care. That’s what MedicAlert is all about.”
MedicAlert—well known for decades for its iconic metal ID bracelets—has always had a laser focus on providing outstanding emergency medical information services to more than 4 million members worldwide. But the partnerships such as the Ohlone Wilderness Run are an example of new, innovative emergency and medical support services and partnerships that the organization can offer after a major effort to update internal marketing and customer support IT systems. IT leaders worked with users across the organization to implement a new Oracle’s Siebel Customer Relationship Management (Siebel CRM) system, which went live in October 2012. Besides offering significant technology and service improvements to give a 360-degree view of their members, the project sparked critical—but necessary—cultural changes at MedicAlert Foundation, helping to ensure the organization’s continued viability now and in the future.
Founded in 1956, MedicAlert Foundation has a simple but profound mission: “Protect and Save Lives.” When members from the United States, the United Kingdom, or other locations around the globe join the organization, they typically purchase MedicAlert IDs engraved with medications, health conditions, and a unique patient identifier number. This number is connected to an electronic Emergency Medical Information Record and MedicAlert Foundation’s Emergency Identification and Medical Information Network, which is staffed 24/7 with medically trained personnel.
When an emergency occurs with a MedicAlert member, first responders seeing the ID know to contact MedicAlert’s network to get current medical and personal information. Every year, MedicAlert Foundation’s medically trained staff field approximately 5,000 of these critical calls. And MedicAlert’s lean staff of 150 takes its mission very personally: most have had direct interactions dealing with members related to emergency events.
Oracle’s such an easy system to learn. We’ve gotten people up and running using it within a half-hour.
“You see how our members depend upon our service and how critical it really is,” says Jorge Mercado, principal architect and lead developer at MedicAlert Foundation. “And that’s saying a lot for an IT guy, because most of the time in IT we don’t clearly understand how what we’re doing impacts the business and someone’s life directly.”
Indeed, Lamoree says it’s that direct impact on a person’s health that drove MedicAlert management to look for new ways to serve its customers. And while the history of the foundation is in the metallic bracelets many wear, the future lies in responding to customers’ evolving needs. “The world is changing,” she says. “We want to offer services to meet the needs of our members and future members. And we needed a system to support this.”
The last time leadership at MedicAlert reviewed and upgraded the organization’s IT infrastructure was in 1999. Melanie Ripley, director of customer experience and engagement at MedicAlert Foundation, jokes that over time, the different applications and databases used to run the company had been duct-taped together. Every department functioned with siloed systems and processes, isolating donor, member, and financial data and making it virtually impossible to get a complete view of membership. System workarounds abounded across the organization; the call center had 200 customizations in place. This had a direct impact on service. “When members called in, you had to go through really extensive measures just to try and track down their information because we had such limited search capabilities,” says Ripley.
|Number of emergency support phone calls each year answered by MedicAlert Foundation’s medically trained staff members|
|Number of members who take advantage of MedicAlert Foundation’s emergency medical information services|
|Number of MedicAlert Foundation affiliates worldwide|
Additionally, the system supported only one type of basic membership. When services such as health directives were added, support personnel had to use improvised workarounds, and there were no easy ways to add tailored memberships for children or the elderly. Outbound interaction with members was also limited, with marketing or e-mail campaigns requiring intervention by IT. And as MedicAlert Foundation expanded internationally to work with approximately 1,200 groups such as the Alzheimer’s Association and the Autism Society, leaders knew they could—and should—do more to serve members with new products and services.
But IT leaders realized that it wouldn’t be as simple as gathering system requirements, taking out the old system—as frustrating as it was—and installing a new system. They would need to drive process and culture change throughout the organization. To this end, a communication plan was mapped out to involve everyone in the organization with special meetings and regular progress reports. There was even a contest to name the project: Phenomenal Undertaking at MedicAlert (PUMA) was ultimately selected.
“We had PUMA cookies and shirts and sayings that were hilarious, like, ‘You can’t handle the PUMA.’ And we even named some of our conference rooms with PUMA,” says Mercado. “We were living, breathing, and eating PUMA for more than a year.”
Besides creating a fun environment, PUMA helped encourage a new culture of collaboration and camaraderie among the staff. People no longer did things in isolation just within their own departments. Because the new system transparently synced call center and manufacturing activities, both departments could view order details and shipping information. Donor management staff cooperated with marketing to segment communication and outreach efforts based on member involvement and past interactions. And everyone worked with IT and engineering to implement new memberships, products, services, and partnerships, which have all been critical to the foundation’s progression.
After devising a comprehensive list of system requirements gleaned from staff and evaluating 40 different software vendors, Lamoree and her team selected Siebel CRM for the project because the solution offered the extensive capabilities and flexibility MedicAlert needed to update business operations. “We don’t know what our members will desire in three years, but we have to have the flexibility in the system to meet those future needs,” says Lamoree.
To help translate PUMA into reality, MedicAlert partnered with Oracle Platinum Partner eVerge Group to craft a comprehensive solution. “We had to really understand MedicAlert’s business model and map that to functionality in Siebel,” says David Winslow, director in the customer experience practice at eVerge.
eVerge consultants helped implement 12 Siebel Service and Siebel Marketing modules, including Siebel Campaigns, Siebel Quote and Order Capture, and Siebel Asset Management. Siebel Sales and Oracle Marketing Analytics were put into place for business intelligence. Consultants also helped implement Oracle Service Bus, part of Oracle Fusion Middleware, to integrate Siebel CRM with Oracle E-Business Suite, which MedicAlert Foundation uses for financials. Oracle Service Bus also provides an easy way for MedicAlert Foundation to integrate with the systems of key third-party partners.
In addition, eVerge experts integrated the new Siebel CRM system with Oracle Enterprise Data Quality products to provide a single repository for member information and electronic personal health record data. As the first Siebel–Oracle Enterprise Data Quality integration project worldwide, approximately 10 million records were cleansed and migrated into a new repository, exponentially improving overall data quality. In the past, if the same name existed in the system, it wasn’t clear whether the duplicate names were actually different people or just scatter.
“Oracle Enterprise Data Quality solved some very important problems for us,” says Mercado. “If someone calls up and says, ‘I have John Smith in the emergency room and he has a MedicAlert ID,’ you really want to make sure that when you look up this person in the system, you have the right one. You can use the number on the ID, but Oracle Enterprise Data Quality allows us to quickly search in the system and any third-party database that we may have or that’s incorporated in the future.”
In just seven short months, PUMA was ready for launch—on time. Lamoree credits eVerge’s expertise and its serious commitment as huge factors in the project’s success.
Long-time employees expressed trepidation about learning how to use PUMA at first, but the strong sense of collaboration among staff that had been encouraged from the very beginning prevailed. eVerge helped walk users through all the functionality offered by Siebel CRM in prototyping workshops during the early stages of the project. And extensive user training was provided. But Ripley, who previously had worked at a music foundation that had a fully integrated Oracle solution, was also quick with encouragement. “I was able to talk to the staff and let them know what capabilities there were and what a vast improvement it was,” she says. “I told them that Oracle’s such an easy system to learn. We’ve gotten people up and running using it within a half-hour.”
The benefits with PUMA are huge, particularly when it comes to having a 360-degree view of members. “It’s about all the relationships we can build and the connections between members,” says Ripley.
You see how our members depend upon our service and how critical it really is. And that’s saying a lot for an IT guy, because most of the time in IT we don’t clearly understand how what we’re doing impacts the business and someone’s life directly.
PUMA has made it possible for MedicAlert Foundation to broaden the types of products and services it can offer. Now, companies can provide a MedicAlert Emergency Medical Information Record as part of employee benefits at a very inexpensive price of less than US$10 a year. There are also a new Essential Membership, which is a cost-effective online-only membership; a supplemental pet caregiver notification service to ensure that pets are cared for in case of an accident or emergency (something suggested by members themselves); and a physician/provider service to notify a member’s primary physician during a medical emergency to facilitate comprehensive, coordinated care.
And PUMA supports the work that MedicAlert Foundation does with approximately 1,200 different groups. For example, it offers wandering assistance services for individuals with autism or Alzheimer’s disease. New system features make it possible for the Emergency Medical Information Record to be even more complete, with space to add a photograph and physical characteristics, such as if a person wears glasses or uses a cane. “We can relate the information to the Alzheimer’s chapters and to law enforcement if someone is wandering,” says Ripley. “We could never do this before.”
In addition, the system makes it easy to track members who have been with MedicAlert Foundation for 40 or even 50 years and send out congratulatory e-mails. The same goes for birthdays and when new family members join. “We also have the opportunity when someone passes to be able to mourn with his or her family, to acknowledge this loss,” says Ripley.
Another big win with PUMA is all its new marketing features. In the past, it was impossible to track whether members were exposed to marketing campaigns, whether they were effective, and whether a member made a donation. Not only can PUMA manage all these tasks and generate e-mail campaigns, but it also can track renewals and whether members were affected by specific advertising campaigns or took advantage of special promotions.
In the near future, MedicAlert Foundation is looking into rolling out PUMA to its nine international affiliates, and there are more new products and services on the horizon. (See sidebar, “Safety First”) While everyone on staff is excited about the possibilities, at the heart, PUMA has allowed the organization to stay true to its core mission: to support members for a lifetime by offering different services for different stages—and to be there in times of need.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t access the system to handle an emergency call and have somebody crying on the phone because we saved someone or found someone,” Lamoree says. “That’s pretty satisfying.”
Alison Weiss is a freelance writer in the San Francisco Bay Area and a frequent contributor to Profit.
In its latest effort to meet the changing needs of members and to offer peace of mind during emergencies, MedicAlert Foundation now offers MedicAlert GPS + Essential, an easy-to-use GPS device combined with a MedicAlert membership that was created to help ensure family and personal safety. The device is ideal for athletes who may exercise alone, anyone with medical conditions, or family members with autism or Alzheimer’s disease.
The size of a domino chip, MedicAlert GPS + Essential leverages wireless cell phone or cell tower capabilities and has a panic button that can be pushed in the event of injury or danger to get help. MedicAlert will be contacted, and a text and/or e-mail message will instantly be sent to emergency contact persons and local law enforcement will be called and alerted to a user’s exact location. It is also possible to set up “safety circles” for specific geographic areas, and if the device enters or leaves the designated area, notifications will be sent out. Users can easily manage the safety circles online or through a mobile application.