University Health System's IT Strategy: Integration

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University Health System in San Antonio, Texas, was recently named one of the 500 most innovative companies in the country by InformationWeek. The health system also holds the distinctions of being included on the American Hospital Association's 2013 Most Wired list, and being named one of the Top 25 Most Connected Healthcare Facilities by Health Imaging & IT Magazine.

The awards honor a variety of IT initiatives currently underway at the health system. The Newborn Admission Notification Information messaging exchange allows for quick, confidential data exchange between the hospital's electronic medical record system and the state health department. By transmitting the results of newborns' hearing tests, the exchange helps ensure proper follow-up treatment is administered to those who need it.

A systemwide device connectivity solution allows patient information to be transferred directly into the EMR system from a medical device, ensuring accurate results and eliminating the need for clinicians to enter the information manually. All IV medications are ordered through a computerized physician order entry system in the EMR to be verified by a pharmacist for accuracy. The pharmacist then adds a barcode to the medication, and accuracy is ensured when the administering clinician scans both the medication barcode and the patient's barcoded wristband.

And the use of Allscripts Community Record provides one common record for the physicians and patients who use UHS facilities as well as the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

All of the IT initiatives at UHS can be summed up by CIO Bill Phillips in one word: integration. "When we buy any new product, we make sure it integrates into our EMR system," he says. "It's integration that allows us to do all the things we're currently doing to improve patient care."

Through integration, the EMR system becomes a "one-stop shop" for diagnostic information for physicians, explains Mr. Phillips, which is why so many of the IT initiatives at UHS focus on getting as much information into the EMR as possible. For example, patients' vital signs are transmitted into the EMRs wirelessly from the monitors, providing instant electronic access to this information, and testing results from colonoscopies to pathology reports are all directly transmitted to the EMR as well.

"We're seeing continued improved performance and improved outcomes from this," says Mr. Phillips. Implementing systems and solutions that focus on bringing data together has allowed UHS to improve patient safety, as well as increase efficiency around the hospital, he says.

"Everyone in healthcare is rushing to implement EMRs right now," says Mr. Phillips. "But without the integration to pull together the information, where's the value?"

Value comes through integration, but to fully appreciate it, Mr. Phillips would advise other CIOs to keep the focus off the costs of the technology and on what integrated, accessible information means for patient safety. "We're all faced with financial pressures, and sometimes in the IT world we can't always mandate a return on investment," he says. "But if we issue an alert that could save a life — there's value. That's my ROI."

More Articles on IT Integration:

Leveraging Lab and Diagnostic services to Compete for Physician Loyalties, While Improving Your Hospital's Operations
Epic, QlikTech Announce EMR Technology Agreement
Electronic Health Records: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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