What with the employee turn-over rate and students coming and going, by the time the University Health Network’s (UHN) telephone directory was printed, it was already out of date.

That meant getting in touch with people at the trio of hospitals which make up the network wasn’t always easy. Together, the Toronto General Hospital, the Toronto Western Hospital and the Princess Margaret Hospital have over 9,000 employees.

The UHN decided that it was time to put the paper directory aside and create an electronic version over a corporate intranet.

“By linking up various databases throughout the hospital, we’re able to have a staff directory that’s up to date all the time. In fact, the most it can be out of date is about 24 hours, which is pretty good,” said UHN chief information officer Matthew Anderson in Toronto.

Before the UHN decided to create the intranet, which has been up and running since September, the only electronic means of communication was through e-mail, and not all staff members had an e-mail account.

Now all members can access the intranet and the hospital can control which information each employee can access through a roles-based security system. Along with the telephone directory, the hospital has also put its administrative manuals, its infection control manual and all of its codes on the intranet. This means that staff members who need to look up a particular policy no longer have to hunt down a manual and wonder if it’s the latest version or not.

“Now they don’t have to worry about someone reading the incorrect policy and not knowing which policy is correct. They know the one that’s on the intranet is a live policy and can be used by everyone,” said Steven Rodin, president of systems integrator Davinci Technologies Inc. in Toronto.

An explanation of the hospital’s code systems are also on-line. When new employees come in, part of their training program includes sitting down in front of the system and learning what a Code Blue means and what to do in case of a Code Red.

When a code that’s used less frequently is called, such as Code Black, which means a bomb threat, staff members can now go on-line and find out what procedures to follow. This again eliminates the need to look for manuals, which are often put away in a “safe place” where they won’t be lost, never to be seen again.

This makes the intranet a critical application.

“If there’s ever a crisis situation, you have to be able to handle every single user being able to [use] it at the same time,” said the UHN’s corporate intranet manager Derek Fobe.

To build the system, the UHN enlisted the help of Davinci Technologies to implement a Microsoft Corp. solution using Microsoft NT Server 4.0. The intranet is running on Internet Information Server 4.0 and Active Server Pages and employs COM.

Now that the directory, policies and codes are on-line, Anderson is concentrating on placing financial reporting capabilities on the intranet as well as automating certain hospital functions. For example, hiring an employee can be a drawn out process, so instead of having to fill out several different forms to get new employees such things as a phone or an e-mail account, the hospital will create a single form on the intranet. A completed form will trigger e-mail notifications requesting various actions.

The hospital would also like to spend time putting a nicer user face on the intranet to facilitate employee buy in.

“Selling the intranet to [our] users has been a bit more of a struggle than most people anticipated. Originally, it was more of a “Build it and they will come” approach and we’re finding that generally, users don’t do that. They really need the intranet to become a part of their daily lives, and there’s a bit of a curve there where you have to convince them to make it part of their daily lives. Selling them on good graphics and good usability is important,” Fobe said.