Express targets small businesses

Last summer when Dr. Peter Vonu went looking for a way to streamline systems and ensure privacy for patients visiting his offices, he says he couldn't have imagined the answer lying with IBM Corp.

"When I thought of IBM, I thought of Fortune 500 companies," he says. "I never thought of a little guy like me."

With the help of systems integrator Ascendant Technologies Inc., Vonu used software from IBM's Express portfolio to automate the practice's check-in process to electronically enter patient information into a database that let the 57 staff members access shared information.

After spending a few months and about US$10,000 with the two companies, Vonu says he and four other doctors can see more patients daily at the Plastic Surgery Center of Hampton Roads in Newport News, Va. Vonu uses IBM WebSphere Application Server Express, WebSphere Portal Express and Lotus SameTime software.

The system automates a process that was once manual and ensures privacy for the 600 clients that visit the office each week. The portal and workflow system eliminates the need for patients to sign in on a clipboard, and instead uses an electronic pad, which patients sign once. The electronic pad display is connected to the portal software, which shows all staff members connected to the network, in this example, the patient's signature.

Doctors, nurses and other staffers then can communicate via the Lotus SameTime messaging system about how to more quickly process the patient. The time once spent processing patient information and communicating patient data via phone or e-mail, the doctor says, gives the staff more time to deal with patients.

The benefits are two-fold, according to Vonu.

"We don't have to wait for an e-mail system or phone call, it's all in real time," he says. "And patients don't have to worry about their name being on a piece of paper and a clipboard alongside other patients' names."

The doctors took advantage of IBM's recent push to address what the company sees as a largely untapped market - small to midsize businesses. IBM first launched the Express line last fall and updated the portfolio in February. Last week the company added more products designed for companies with between 100 and 1,000 employees.

The additions included two software offerings in the WebSphere portfolio, a vertical product offering and more financing options, which the company says will let customers pay for their software over the course of three to five years.

IBM WebSphere Commerce Express is software designed to help small and midsize companies start building an online store with an e-commerce site. Wizards and point-and-click menus help users establish a Web presence. WebSphere MQ - Express is software that serves as middleware, sitting between applications and letting them interface with one another. The product helps customers connect many applications to enable the sharing of data across an IT infrastructure.

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