Big Easy Hospital Goes Paperless

New Orleans' 152-year-old Touro Infirmary teams with Siemens to create an all-digital environment, with the aims of increasing efficiencies, cutting costs and providing a higher degree of patient confidentiality.

Five years ago, Peter Dougherty laid out a vision for Touro Infirmary: Make the 152-year-old nonprofit New Orleans hospital a paperless operation.

In his plan, all doctors, nurses and administrative personnel would be able to access patient information—from medical records to doctors orders to patient billing data—via computers, without ever having to touch a piece of paper. Such an environment, Dougherty said, would increase efficiencies, cut costs and provide a higher degree of patient confidentiality.

Today, Doughertys vision is becoming a reality. About 70 percent of the hospital is wired in the manner in which the CIO planned, with the other 30 percent due to be completed within 18 months.

But it hasnt been easy. Creating a paperless world has meant overhauling the hospitals IT infrastructure, from its hardware to its core applications. It also called for a strong IT partner, which Touro found in Siemens Medical Solutions USA Inc. The company, based in Malvern, Pa., is owned by Siemens AG.

The two have worked closely together for the past four years, to the point where the hospital is less than two years away from reaching its goal, Dougherty said.

"I go to them first with any solution Im looking for," Dougherty said of Siemens. "They provide expert advice. Its a partnership. ... They help us think; we make them think. Its been a lot of fun."

Touro has also worked with IBM, albeit typically through a third party, Dougherty said. "We talk with IBM and talk with IBM representatives, but IBMs mind-set is not to sell direct but always through a VAR."

But thats just fine with Dougherty, who said theres an advantage to having only one number to call. "I only have to go to one person if I have a problem, not two vendors," he said.

Its no minor issue for a hospital growing increasingly dependent on technology. Touro manages about 1,200 PCs, more than 300 printers, more than 150 wireless devices and an average of 12 computers per nursing unit. That infrastructure is managed by an IT staff of 32 and is backed up by Siemens Medical.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here for a case study on ramping up IT at Cincinnati Childrens Hospital.

Chad Jones, regional principal for Siemens Medical, said his company works closely with IBM to give customers a complete IT package—IBM brings the technology; Siemens puts it together.

"Customers dont have to piece together the required components to achieve their desired outcomes," Jones said.

In Touros case, the technology will enable the hospital, which has about 350 beds, 500 physicians and 1,700 employees and generates about $450 million in gross revenue a year, "to enhance and expand their electronic health-record initiatives," Jones said.

Most recently, Siemens helped Touro buy and deploy an IBM eServer z890 and an IBM TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server Model 800 storage area network to help manage the hospitals information. The hardware runs Siemens Invision health care information software, which comprises the core business applications for the hospital.

Touro ordered the mainframe with 80 mips and one processor activated, although there are three other processors on the system that can be brought online as needed. "It gives us the flexibility to add processor capacity as our [demands] grow," Dougherty said. "Thats one of the biggest advantages of the box. ... If I add another hospital or another couple of hundred doctors or add another floor, Im ready to go."

/zimages/2/28571.gifTo read about the nations 101 most-wired hospitals, click here.

The hospital went live with the mainframe and storage system last month and is running the bulk of its applications on the platform.

There still are more applications to port over, but much of the heavy work has been done.

Over the next 18 months, Touro will work to make almost all its document imaging electronically generated.

The first two steps—bringing in document imaging solutions and developing a scanning method to automate as many forms as possible—will be done over the next nine months, Dougherty said.

The following nine months will be spent instituting an electronic medical-records system so that most documents will be electronically generated rather than scanned into the system.

"At the end of this process, less than 5 percent of our documents are going to be scanned," Dougherty said. "More than 95 percent of all documents will be generated electronically."

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