A Million Stories

Gary Baldwin, for HealthLeaders Media, March 11, 2008
Looking back on the massive HIMSS exhibition, I am struck by the enormity of change under way in the industry. I had multiple encounters with CIOs describing how their health systems are undertaking ambitious projects. These are invariably wrapped in a patient safety initiative, one that is being driven by the clinical staff, not the CIO. Following are a few highlights of the people I met in Orlando.

Deborah Gash, the CIO at St. Luke's Health System in Kansas City, told me how her hospital is really promoting patient connectivity. They're using Relay Health (now owned by McKesson) to facilitate online bill payment and clinical messaging. St. Luke's has some 4,300 patients enrolled thus far, all at the behest of physicians. Patients can see their lab results and medical records through a secure connection. St. Luke's has the potential to offer "e-visits" as well, although few physicians are taking advantage of it to date. Only recently have payers begun to ante up for the service.

Michael Krouse, CIO at Columbus-based OhioHealth, is leading the charge at the 16-hospital system for increased patient safety. Speaking at a McKesson press event, Krouse described how OhioHealth is deploying "closed loop" medication management technology. The goal is to automate the entire medication administration chain, from the initial order to dispensation on the floor. OhioHealth recently opened a new "digital hospital," Dublin Methodist, in which no paper charts are to be found.

Michael Kramer, MD, serves at CMIO at Michigan-based Trinity Health. Trinity has one of the industry's largest IT overhauls under way, as it is standardizing on Cerner clinical documentation tools across 31 hospitals. According to Kramer, Trinity has completed the staged deployment at 11 hospitals thus far, and is on track to have 11 more complete by the end of this year. It's a big undertaking with big numbers: Trinity has compiled some 3,600 order sets to date. It's also seeing reduced malpractice pay-outs at its automated facilities.

Melissa Foster, RN, is manager of nursing informatics at Homestead (FL) Hospital, where she is overseeing a project to capture documentation from fetal surveillance monitors directly into an electronic chart, from CliniComp. The setup enables centralized monitoring of up to 13 patient beds at once. Homestead has 11 nursing informatics specialists, says Foster, who reports to the chief nursing officer.

Jamie Welch is CIO of the Rural Hospital Coalition, based in Pride, LA. The coalition is supporting a state-wide data exchange that includes 24 rural hospitals. Funded by an $11 million state grant, the RHIO is just getting off the ground. I asked Welch about the exchange's odds for long-term survival, and she conceded that it may take five years to answer that question.

Gary Baldwin is technology editor of HealthLeaders magazine. He can be reached at gbaldwin@healthleadersmedia.com.
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