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ED Overhaul

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When Saint Clare’s Hospital in Weston, WI, opened in October 2005, paper charts were hard to find with one exception: the emergency department. Treating some 12,000 patients annually at its central Wisconsin location, the ED ran on paper for a year while Saint Clare’s conducted a vendor search and trained its staff before implementing a new ED information system from MedHost in October 2006. Stewart Watson, MD, medical director for emergency services, discussed the new system and how the hospital realized a prompt return on it.

HealthLeaders: How many vendors did you consider?
Watson: Our ED vendor search began in April 2005. We narrowed our list from a start of 25 vendors and came up with 13. We did a detailed analysis and narrowed the list to six. We then developed the RFP. It entailed a lot of detail about deliverables, such as the ability to interface with existing systems, and detailed specifications on functionality, including order entry, nurse and physician charting and patient tracking.

HL: How did you evaluate the responses to the RFP?
Watson: We summarized them based on the most important functionality and service components. We ranked vendors as positive, neutral or minus in each category. We came up with our top three vendors. We then did site visits and traveled around the country. The two most important things we did were to be very specific about deliverables and [conduct] site visits in a live environment.

HL: You measured ROI for the software, a step many hospitals don’t take. Why?
Watson: As part of our mission statement, we have to be good stewards of financial resources. When we deploy any new product, we have to make sure we are spending wisely. [For the ED system,] we looked at three measures: quality, service and financial return.

HL: How long will it take to recoup costs?
Watson: With any templated electronic record, we felt we would have a better opportunity to capture what we are doing. We felt documentation should be improved. We estimated we would see ROI that would justify and pay for the product within 18-24 months. We have exceeded those numbers. We see ROI coming in around 14 months.

—Gary Baldwin