The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s continuing implementation of customer relationship management (CRM) software is assisting with a growing assortment of business needs.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM was introduced within the department two years ago and is still in the implementation phase. Jim Green, the department’s CIO, said that developing applications for Public Health’s more complex projects was challenging, so the department looked to Microsoft as an alternative.

For one project, developers and business analysts in the Department of Public Health and its Environmental Health Division developed an application supported on the CRM system for vehicle inspections — particularly for vehicles that are used as mobile food facilities (a.k.a., food trucks).

Vendors selling food out of a mobile facility are required to obtain a business license and a county public health permit in order to operate legally. Environmental health specialists from the department do inspections of mobile food carts, food trucks or vendors selling food from their personal vehicle.

“Unlicensed operators are presenting a potential risk to health because their food handling practices may not be safe,” Green said. “The equipment may not be up to par.”

Vehicles can be impounded if mobile food vendors are operating without a license, Green said. In those cases, information regarding those cases, such as the vehicle retrieval process, can be tracked through the CRM software.

Prescription

Green said that in addition to the vehicle tracking, the department has worked to implement CRM for labeling the limited number of prescription drugs the department dispenses.

On Jan. 1, 2011, a new mandate in California standardized prescription drug labels. In the past, Green said, prescription drug bottles were labeled by hand, which was a cumbersome and error-prone process.

The department integrated its CRM system with a commercially available database of prescription information so it can look up the correct drug that needs to be prescribed as well as the physical description associated with that drug. The information is formatted using the report writing capabilities in the CRM platform. Once labels are formatted, they are printed to go on the prescription bottles. The system also generates information about the drug that’s distributed in a pamphlet given to the patient.

Green said the CRM assists with inventory tracking for the prescriptions and interfaces with an automated prescription-filling machine so that pills don’t have to be hand-counted into bottles. About nine months ago, L.A. County began integrating CRM into the workflow for prescription drugs, and the work is ongoing.

The Public Health Department is now implementing CRM for its largest project, the Case Management and Processing System (CMAP) — a system primarily used by nurses and investigators for receiving, assigning and tracking field work for case investigation and follow-up of communicable disease, Green said. The department is currently in a production pilot. By the end of summer, the department hopes to have the application fully deployed throughout the community.

Like any other tool that’s used in health services, the CRM tool must maintain compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act guidelines. Green said one way the CRM helps to ensure HIPAA compliance is that it has out-of-the-box auditing capabilities that track who accesses what record and when.

Green said there are future plans to integrate the CRM tool with more of the department’s existing systems.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.