Reinventing Health-Care Communication Digital Revolution Will Change Record Keeping, Administration

By Comerford, Mike | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 16, 2006 | Go to article overview

Reinventing Health-Care Communication Digital Revolution Will Change Record Keeping, Administration


Comerford, Mike, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Mike Comerford Daily Herald Business Writer

Alexian Brothers Health System this month fired up the most ambitious and comprehensive medical information system in the Chicago area.

Two years and $20 million went into the system Alexian Brothers calls AlexiCare, the largest single health care investment in its history.

Alexian Brothers officials say the innovations will have an impact on patient care.

"This is not about computers, it's about saving lives and improving care and helping health care providers do a better job," said William Wellman, chief information officer, Alexian Brothers.

It's part of what can be called a digital revolution sweeping across the health care industry.

"What sets Alexian Brothers apart is the level of integration they are achieving," said Paul Berthiaume, a spokesman for Westwood, Mass.-based Meditech Inc., which supplies 25 percent of the U.S. hospitals with information software, including Alexian Brothers.

With four hospitals in Hoffman Estates and Elk Grove Village, Alexian Brothers operates the system from a command center in Arlington Heights.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago made national news in March when it fired up its information system but Alexian Brothers is the first in the area to be sharing information between so many sites and overlapping service areas.

"This is the direction the whole industry is moving," said Eliezer Geisler, director of Illinois Institute of Technology's Center for the Management of Medical Technology.

As of this month, medical information is being shared between hundreds of personal digital assistants and computers among Alexian Brothers' 1,500 doctors. Access to patient records can be made from anywhere in the country or abroad.

Indeed, such integrated health care delivery systems are so complex they've been known to flop.

Two years ago, Los Angeles-based Cedars Sinai Hospital had to shut down its computerized information system when doctors revolted and refused to use it.

"We managed to go live with relatively few bumps," Wellman said. "A lot of hospitals wish they had what we have."

Such projects are the focus of national efforts by the U.S. Department Health and Human Services to get hospitals to digitize hospital records.

The goal, Secretary Mike Leavitt recently said, is to "transform our health care system by reducing medical errors, minimizing paperwork hassles, lowering costs and improving quality of care."

Industry estimates show billions of dollars could be saved by reducing the number of duplicated records. …

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