Increased demands

By Brian Fonseca  |  Posted 2005-03-01 Print this article Print

Growing numbers of young, technology-savvy medical professionals are demanding new technology, including digitized records, PDAs and digital signature authorization, Harr said. They want more data faster so they can deliver better, safer health care.

In most hospitals, "all of the information of your previous visits, including your medical history, is in a manila folder," said Harr.
But that doesnt cut it with physicians who need to make medical decisions quickly, accurately and wherever they are.

"For physicians its very important ... to give or receive patient information on a handheld or wireless device," said Harr, adding that too often a lack of clearly identifiable, readily available patient records leads to retesting, which can raise costs and lower productivity.

Concerns about quality care and finances led West Branch Medical, an 88-bed acute-care facility, to implement BlueWares Electronic Health Record system as a key component in the overhaul of its IT systems. The upgrade included clinical applications from Keane Inc., as well as IBM hardware and middleware.

Read more here about large groups of outpatient doctors offices implementing Electronic Medical Records systems. "At the time we went to BlueWare, basically all [West Branch Medical] had electronic was a billing process—that was it. Everything else was paper in the entire organization," said Randy Lewis, IS director for West Branch Medical. "The decision was made to move forward with an electronic system throughout the entire facility. [West Branch] chose Keane for clinical applications, and they wanted to take it a step further to bring in paperless medical records to have everything archived and put on the AS/400 or on an optical jukebox and burn it to optical platters. That was their goal and philosophy."

Lewis said the requirements of federal regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) spurred the medical facility to move to a cross-departmental electronic system. However, he said it took a great deal of "training and coaxing" to get physician staff members to embrace the technology.

"We were asking them to basically change how they practice medicine, from [paper-based] to electronic," said Lewis. "When you consider they went from zero to 60 overnight, I think the staff did a great job. Those who have come on board now love it and dont want to go back."

BlueWares technology made things significantly easier for busy West Branch Medical physicians who typically have little spare time to learn new application controls, Harr said. "Physicians can be trained in less than 10 minutes. Theyre doctors, and even though theyre very savvy, they have little patience, and to get 10 minutes of their time is a lot," Harr said. "Once we were able to go in and teach them, they really embraced the system. That was a big day for us when the doctors were cool with our product."

To kick off the nine-month project, Keane was brought in to implement a Hospital Information System strategy featuring patient admissions, billing and financial applications. The projects next phase included the installation of BlueWares Wellness Connection 3.0 application, which moves information from disparate departmental systems into a common folder. This can include current information from home visits and visits to a doctor.

"Now the physicians see the [patients] complete record online immediately within BlueWare," said Lewis. "They dont have to wait for a fax or read an e-mail or receive copies. All lab and radiology results feed across immediately any information they need."

Next Page: Quick studies bring big changes.

Brian Fonseca is a senior writer at eWEEK who covers database, data management and storage management software, as well as storage hardware. He works out of eWEEK's Woburn, Mass., office. Prior to joining eWEEK, Brian spent four years at InfoWorld as the publication's security reporter. He also covered services, and systems management. Before becoming an IT journalist, Brian worked as a beat reporter for The Herald News in Fall River, Mass., and cut his teeth in the news business as a sports and news producer for Channel 12-WPRI/Fox 64-WNAC in Providence, RI. Brian holds a B.A. in Communications from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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