For one Ohio hospital, an imaging system consisting of IBM products and a solution provider-built application is just what the doctor ordered.
Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater, Ohio, worked with Cadillac, Mich.-based BlueWare to make patient information more readily available to hospital staff. BlueWare, which specializes in electronic health-management solutions for hospitals throughout the country, developed an application called Wellness Connection that allows medical staff to access records, images, X-rays and other resources via any PC in a hospital, clinic or remotely.
BlueWare began working with Mercer in 2001 and recently installed version 3 of Wellness Connection, which includes an array of new features such as allowing personnel to access documents from standard Internet browsers.
>> FOCUS: Electronic health-management solutions
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>> PROBLEM and SOLUTION: All patient records and medical documents at Mercer County Community Hospital were stored in hard copy, making them difficult to access. BlueWare installed an imaging solution that allows all of the hospital's files to be accessed digitally via a Web browser.
>> PRODUCTS and SERVICES USED: Wellness Connection from BlueWare, iSeries AS/400 servers, Content Manager, Jukebox, Domino, Lotus from IBM
>> LESSONS LEARNED:
> Involving employees in the design of a solution and keeping them aware of changes increases buy-in.
"We want to help physicians, make [their lives] easier, attract [them] to our organization. Wellness met that goal and increased patient satisfaction and patient safety," said Rich Branch, director of IT systems at the hospital. "With the Wellness product, we put patient info into physicians' hands."
BlueWare, an IBM business partner, integrated the Wellness Connection software with a variety of IBM hardware and software, including iSeries servers, IBM Content Manager and Domino and Lotus clients. The initial integration went smoothly, in part because the solution provider already had been working with Mercer and because the hospital was already using IBM equipment, said Rose Harr, president and CEO of BlueWare.
The solution was installed first in the hospital's health records and insurance departments before being expanded to all of the hospital's clinical departments and several independent physicians' offices affiliated with the hospital.
The Wellness suite has significantly streamlined the process of retrieving patient records, Branch said. In the past, a telephone or written request would be sent to the records room, where it was placed in a queue for the hospital's two full-time records managers. The hospital stored all records for seven years, and for patients born in the hospital, records were stored until the patient reached 21, in hard copy on-site or off-site.
When a particular item was requested, the records managers would have to pull the gigantic file folders kept for each patient, retrieve the particular item, and fax or mail it to the office requiring it. Now, staff members need only to go online, and within a few seconds the information is available.
BlueWare and Mercer encountered a variety of hurdles along the way. The original Wellness suite was difficult to learn, which led BlueWare to develop the Web-based solution. "For physicians, you can't put anything in front of them unless it's going to be easy to use. You can't write a system and then teach a doctor how to use it.
You have to give them a system they can use. Don't try to change the way they practice medicine," Harr said.
The Web-based system also solved another common problem: A variety of document types are used in the hospital, from Word files to PDFs to database records, and many staff members don't know how to print each type of document. Now all documents can be printed directly from the software in a single step.
BlueWare proactively works to avoid downtime of the system during installation, which can have disastrous results in the hospital. Mercer has redundant PCs in each department to provide constant access to the system, and for the reliability of the solution itself, BlueWare and Mercer both point to the stability of IBM's products and its backup tools.
"You can never avoid discussing [backup]. It's a challenge because it costs a little more to install systems that have redundancy built in, but it's essential," Harr said. "If you have a power outage, you have to do an absolutely great job of serviceability and business availability. That's where IBM comes into play."