UNC Healthcare finds Plone easy to swallow

Could Plone be the CMS that the healthcare industry is needing? Based on what I am reading at NewsForge it looks as if it is certainly one viable option.

At the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and affiliated hospitals, intranet and Web site users felt like they were “visiting a foreign land” each time they landed on a different department, says UNC Healthcare IT staff director Jim Walsh. Each department had it own look and feel, which made a hodge-podge for people going from site to site to perform searches and look up information. Today, however, after a revamp that included migration to the Plone open source content management system, site visitors have sense of a unified organization, and UNC staff feel at home with the new technology.

Walsh knew he was going to have to make a change in the corporate intranet and outward-facing Internet. “We needed to have a single unified presence, both internal and external, for all our customers.” UNC Healthcare had spent a lot of money developing a clinical data repository and information system where doctors and researchers could look for drug and disease information. It was a good system, but the multiple interfaces were creating problems. “Our physicians and clinicians had become used to one presentation source, but then we started integrating in other information and it became very confusing.” Complicating matters was a search function that wasn’t able to go cross-departmental, forcing researchers to surf from site to site and perform multiple searches in hopes of finding the information they needed.

Corporate executives issued a new policy directive: All presence on the Web, internally or externally, would be managed through a single software package. Rather than a Web design package such as Microsoft FrontPage or Adobe GoLive that requires intensive training, UNC needed a CMS that could provide a unified look and feel for all sites, but would be easy for users to understand when it came time to upload content.

Walsh says he had no problem finding a plethora of content management systems. Unfortunately, most of them were too expensive. Then they found Plone. “We went to some workshops and began to understand what some of [Plone’s] existing customer base was doing,” Walsh says. He liked the fact that Plone had so many tool sets and add-ons developed by the open source community surrounding the project. But the biggest selling point was that with Plone, content owners could be responsible for managing their own content, leaving the IT staff free to focus on more important issues than updating Web pages. [Read the rest]