Kiosks streamline HR info for Calgary Health employees

Access to human resources information can now be gained 24/7 by workers with the Calgary Health Region.

The information is being delivered via automated self-service kiosks developed by systems integrator IBM Canada Ltd.

The Web-based kiosk network, integrated with Calgary Health’s portal, also enables the health region’s workers to create select changes to their files without going through the lengthy process of contacting the human resources department.

The new kiosk system will provide easier, faster access to information and the ability to update it when and where they need it, according to Barry Burk, IBM’s health care technology general manager.

Prior to the roll-out of the units, health care workers in the province often waited for days before their written request for information could be answered, says Don Winn, general manager of strategic partnerships for Calgary Health.

“Now employees access their personal files in a matter of seconds and effect allowable data changes in minutes.”

Calgary Health (CHR), which employs more than 24,000 people stationed in about 100 locations, decided to move from a largely paper-based human resources data system to an online model to empower its workforce, says Winn.

Previously, only CHR’s payroll information was integrated with the online portal and a large number of the workforce had no access to computer terminals or laptops.

Often, workers had to fill out a paper request form and send it via inter-office mail to CHR headquarters or contact an HR representative using the phone, explains Winn. Either way, it normally took days for requests to be completed.

Planning and consultation with IBM and various CHR departments to determine the appropriate software and hardware began in 2005, says Michelle Desmarais, CHR’s lead for the kiosk project.

CHR’s PeopleSoft human resources application was migrated to IBM Anyplace Kiosk units which were specifically designed to meet the health organization’s needs.

The kiosks are equipped with an LCD touch display screen, keyboard, trackball, a built-in printer and a telephone preset to automatically dial the help desk when lifted. IBM manages and provides support services for the machines.

The first kiosk was installed last May and there are now 70 operating units in various CHR buildings. The health organization intends to deploy an additional 30 machines by the end of the year.

“We wanted the machines to be easily accessible to employees, so we had the kiosks installed in high-traffic areas such as clinics, kitchens, cafeterias and other common areas,” says Desmarais. She notes that all the units are wheelchair accessible as well.

Using the kiosk, CHR employees can send and receive e-mail messages from the regional message box, access the internal Web site, view personal HR information, enroll for benefits, receive payroll and vacation-day advisories and make changes to certain parts of their HR files.

“Calgary’s a relatively progressive user of technology,” adds Burk. “We’ve had a long-term strategic outsourcing contract with them and they continue to be at the forefront of using technology to deliver better patient care.”

Installing a network of kiosks made sense to CHR mainly because not everyone in the organization had easy access to a desktop, he says.

The kiosks are also equipped with several security features to ensure the safety of the staff’s personal information, according to Lee Ann Sullivan, IT program director, CHR.

Users are provided with unique passwords and, although the applications are Web-based, the kiosks cannot be accessed via the public Internet, explains Sullivan.

“The machines and the attached printer do not retain cookies or cache data, all information is encrypted and the applications run behind the organization’s firewall,” she says.

Down the road, Winn also envisions a broader set of uses for the kiosk system. He says the CHR development team is looking into the possibility of using the devices as an effective communications tool to deliver key messages to staff, especially for purposes such as pandemic planning, for example.

CHR did not say how much the project cost or how much savings the region expected to realize from the deployment. “We were aiming at empowering our employees. This was not about monitoring savings,” says Winn.

However, Burk notes that potential savings may become evident in CHR’s administration. “There’s some minor reduction in cost for routine HR transactions because you don’t have to have somebody there when someone wants to do a simple thing like change their address.”

The biggest benefit the region achieved, Winn says, is that CHR workers now have the ability to access their records conveniently and securely.

With a kiosk available 24 hours a day, in most cases employees won’t have to disrupt their work schedules or sleep hours to set up an appointment with the HR department, he says.

“We work in a 24/7 environment. Any time a midnight shift person knows he doesn’t need to wake up early in the morning to visit HR, that’s a big relief.”

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