February 19, 2006



Posted: 10.17.05

The Invisible Cure

Questra, a developer of intelligent device management (IDM) solutions, has deployed its products to General Electric, Kodak, Samsung and Heidelberg, among other Fortune 1,000 companies. Questra’s Smart Service Solution monitors remote intelligent devices, enabling their manufacturers to effectively diagnose and repair equipment located at customer sites via a secure Internet connection. The solution promises to reduce service costs and improve response times for technical support. Diagnostic Products Corporation (DPC) and Omnicell are two companies that chose to use Questra’s IDM solution a few years ago, and each is thrilled with the results.
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By Rita Kushnir

Diagnosing Diagnostic Equipment

Founded in 1971, Diagnostic Products Corp. (DPC) is a worldwide manufacturer of diagnostics equipment for hospitals and reference laboratories with a focus on immunoassays. With over 2,200 employees and annual revenues of over $440 million, DPC is a global leader dedicated to immunodiagnostics. During service strategy sessions in early 2000, DPC decision-makers realized that as their instrument systems became more and more complex, the need for a more efficient management and support system grew as well.

At the time, detecting problems relied on a customer’s technician’s attentiveness and level of experience—after all, they were the ones who called support if something wasn’t working. And of course, technicians weren’t always aware of every problem as soon as it occurred, and the result was lost time and money. “We wanted to take the customer out of the service equation,” says Linda Tucci, director of service at DPC, “so we needed new ways to be able to troubleshoot effectively.” Questra’s IDM solution was chosen to become a bridge between malfunctioning instruments and their skilled manufacturers.

The deployment went quite smoothly as the companies collaborated, says Tucci. “We grew together in the evolution of our service needs. We are a demanding customer, but they were able to serve our needs quite nicely.”

The resulting architecture is much more efficient, as it bypasses the customer when a need for support arises. Questra’s software works on a standalone PC at a hospital laboratory. Connected to it are multiple DPC systems on its network enterprise server, which receives event information from the instruments via the Internet. All of the patient-identifying information is stripped at the instrument level in accordance with HIPAA, a policy that protects patient confidentiality. Data is quickly analyzed by experts at DPC, and based on the issue involved, an e-mail alert goes out to the appropriate team, notifying them that there is a problem that needs to be investigated.

Tucci describes the deployment as a success. “We now have the ability to identify instrument events that are predictive of a module failure before it occurs. That allows us to schedule a service call at a customer’s convenience. We have less travel costs. We can provide a better diagnosis to ensure that we have the appropriate field service engineer and the appropriate parts on site. And we fix it right the first time, because we go there with a diagnosis in hand.”

Repairs Behind the Scenes

Launched in 1992, Omnicell, a provider of end-to-end patient safety solutions used throughout 1,600 hospitals, pharmacies and other healthcare facilities, has 450 employees and annual revenues of $200 million. Omnicell’s solutions improve clinical and financial outcomes by preventing medical errors and controlling costs. Its largest product line is a medication-dispensing cabinet called the SafetyPak, which is used primarily by nurses to ensure that the right patient receives the right drug at the right time. Currently, there are 31,000 SafetyPaks in action.

Because the SafetyPak bears so much responsibility, it is imperative that it functions perfectly. Mike Cline, VP of services, already had extensive experience with remote monitoring equipment when he decided to deploy monitoring equipment for Omnicell. “I saw the power and the potential of these things,” he says. After considering several vendors, Cline felt that Questra met its needs best and they focused on the product with the largest customer base—the SafetyPak.

After a successful trial period, Omnicell installed the Smart Service Solution at 175 of its customers’ locations. “We set up trigger points that tell us if an event occurs that we should be aware of,” says Cline. “This allows us to proactively intervene and take steps to prevent problems. So instead of a customer calling us to say, ‘Hey, something is broken, my computer is acting up,’ we get an immediate notification via the Internet from that computer saying, ‘I’ve had three crashes in the past 24 hours that I’ve recovered from automatically.’ We can go in there and make an analysis or assessment and, potentially, some repairs in the background without a customer even being aware that there was a problem.”

As a result, Questra’s solution avoids downtime for customers. They do not need to call or wait for an engineer. Omnicell is already working on the problem, often before it becomes apparent. Timing is essential, according to Cline. “The longer a problem perpetuates, the more complex the analysis process becomes. So if we’ve been having a problem for 10 hours and somebody finally gets to the location, they may have 10 hours’ worth of data to sort through to try to pinpoint what’s going on. If we get immediate notification, we can respond and fix it much quicker. And it allows us to be more efficient, to be able to support more customers with fewer [technicians].”

It was easy for Omnicell to convince its customers to install the Smart Service Solution. Benefits were obvious and neither security nor confidentiality were compromised. Additionally, because Questra’s solutions are widely used by high-profile companies, Omnicell could simply point to another device in the hospital already served
by Questra’s IDM, extinguishing any doubt in a
customer’s mind.
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