Storage upgrade to improve Ottawa facility’s acute care

An Ottawa hospital announced Thursday that, with the help of Meditech Inc., it is embarking on a three-year project to become a fully integrated e-hospital.

The Queensway-Carleton Hospital

is a 201-bed acute care community hospital serving west Ottawa and the western Ottawa Valley region. The hospital is about to embark on a major expansion and was feeling growing pains, particularly when dealing with its aging and incompatible IT systems, says hospital director of information systems Julie Simpson.

The hospital partnered with Westwood, Mass.–based medical software solution developer Meditech and is about to roll out a three-phase, $4 million service automation project. The project, which gets underway in April 2003, will use Meditech’s Health Care Information System software to put patient scheduling, medical records, and all of the hospital’s financials online over the next three years, Simpson says.

Queensway-Carleton’s existing systems made sharing information between different departments and disciplines a challenge, Simpson says. Hospital staff also hope to improve patient care processes significantly when services like patient scheduling–which is still done manually–are automated, she adds.

“”Patients now have to go to multiple departments to book appointments; they have to give their information several times. With automated scheduling the patients will be able to book all of their appointments at once, have them sequenced appropriately to reduce their waiting time and allow that information to be visible internally to everyone who is authorized and involved in that patients care,”” she says.

The hospital chose to partner with Meditech after a thorough review process largely because of the company’s reputation in the medical field. Meditech is a significant presence in Canadian hospitals, says Meditech spokesperson Paul Berthiaume, and is expanding its reach to include long term care and assisted living facilities.

“”We’ve had lots of customers particularly in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Alberta. I think in Nova Scotia we have 32 or 33 different sites. It’s almost like every acute care center in Nova Scotia is using a Meditech system.””

Berthiaume says that the Canadian healthcare market has been responsive to integrated solutions because the nature of the market is changing to a more regional approach with several organizations often working together as a unit.

“”If you’re going to have seven hospitals affiliate together and deliver care as a unit, you can’t have five or six different information systems. You really need one. That system has to be robust enough and has to have integration as an inborn characteristic. That’s Meditech’s wheel-house,”” he says.

Queensway-Carleton is the first Meditech site to run on IBM hardware, with whom it partnered with just last year, Berthiaume says.

The hospital will deploy the Health Care Information System on IBM’s eServer xSeries technology. The hospital also plans to use an IBM TotalStorage FAStT Storage server.

Although Simpson says hospital staff are quite confident the $4 million investment they’re making in IT will bring quantifiable return on investment and are predicting a return of 20 per cent of the software costs by the end of phase one, she thinks quality of patient care will be the most noticeable improvement.

“”We think we’re going to see some significant improvements in clinical care processes in the nursing units and outpatient centers. As patient information becomes available in real time, online and accessible to the physicians. Instead of flipping through piles of old charts from previous visits, it’ll be online,”” she says.

The hospital hopes to move staff away from paperwork and give them more time to spend with patients which can only be a good thing, Simpson says.

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