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Solution provider of the year helped remote communities with IT

Channel Strategy

When Clear Concepts Inc. first moved into a few Aboriginal communities in Manitoba, it had a clear goal – to forge connections with Aboriginal communities, ensuring its IT services would make a difference in people’s lives while respecting their ability to manage themselves.

So it came in with Mustimuhw, software designed by Aboriginals for Aboriginals in managing electronic medical records, something that is groundbreaking for smaller Aboriginal communities that often have to make do without a local doctor or hospital.

On Sept. 11, Computer Dealer News recognized Clear Concepts’ approach, naming it Solutions Provider of the Year and overall winner of the Channel Elite Awards for 2013. Clear Concepts also took home the gold award for Best Small Business Solution.

“It’s really all about improving healthcare in the community … The ability to bring technology in doesn’t just increase productivity, but it allows them to have electronic medical records, they’re able to save money, and save their cultural heritage,” said Phil Proctor, managing partner of Clear Concepts, in an interview right after winning the award.

He added having IT services also improves communication between doctors and patients. Without that, it can be very hard on patients and their families to have to travel to other communities that have bigger healthcare facilities and greater access to medical care.

“The most compelling thing is that they are so remote. And for us to be able to be their IT department from this far away, from 3,000 kilometres, it’s truly a testament,” Proctor said.

But he added it’s not just Clear Concepts’ ability to go the distance that has earned it all of its business. He said Mustimuhw has been key to Clear Concepts’ ability to enter Aboriginal communities and win their trust. It’s a unique system built by the Cowichan First Nation, combining current medical practices with traditional First Nations teachings.

For the past few years, Clear Concepts has been managing IT services for Mustimuhw users in more remote areas of Canada. For example, one of its clients is the Hailika’as Heiltsuk Health Centre, which is based on an island near British Columbia.

Yet that comes with its fair share of difficulty, said Christian Korell, Clear Concepts’ president and CEO.

“I’ve been to many of those communities, and I understand the logistics. Half the battle is just getting there. You can get a flight in, but you can’t get a flight out, so you have to spend the night,” Korell said. “There’s no hotels, no places to eat. So it’s just all those daily challenges you just take for granted, working in Winnipeg or working in Toronto … just the necessities of life become a challenge when you need to get in there and deploy services.”

He added he believes on those kinds of trips, it’s really important to plan ahead.

It’s also been a challenge for many of Clear Concepts’ technicians, said Glenn Kemp, the company’s director of technical services. In areas that are more geographically remote, there can be issues with connectivity, for example. And of course, not everyone has had access to a computer.

“A lot of them are novices to technology in the first place, so this could be the first computer they’ve had access to. So oftentimes, our service desk is having to start at the basics with them, having to walk them through connecting the computer, logging in, having to use email and things like that,” he said.

“From my standpoint, a lot of what we deal is having the cultural awareness, and the patience, and the understanding of some of the communities … and the budgets they have to spend on IT, they have to maximize that.”

Still, for Proctor, Clear Concepts’ role is to help Aboriginal communities with their IT services, but not to come in and completely overhaul their systems. In helping these communities manage Mustimuhw, they recognize Aboriginal communities’ ability to manage their own healthcare, he said.

“[We have] a true desire to help the client, to improve their quality of life,” he said. “Our role in this whole thing is not that large, really. We’re just happy to be a piece of what allows them to better their community.”