Hospital reaps ROI

By Healthcare IT News
12:00 AM

A month after the full rollout of an integrated electronic records and order entry system, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare is reporting dramatic results and planning to expand its digital reach.

The IDN's facilities already have documented a variety of improvements related to the system. Test result turnaround times have dropped; insurance denials related to insufficient information have fallen to 0.5 percent of all claims; and entire categories of errors and near-misses in medication errors have been eliminated.

Evanston Northwestern implemented the integrated electronic medical records system and computerized physician order entry technology in 13 months by making it its top corporate objective and ensuring that all its physicians would use it.

The network, which operates three hospitals and 50 physician offices in Chicago's affluent north suburbs, made mandatory training a cornerstone of its training for 500 affiliated and 1,200 independent physicians who admit to its hospitals. Physicians' requirements to admit to its facilities include training and use of the systems, said Jeff Hillebrand, its COO.

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"Many organizations have the financial wherewithal," Hillebrand said. "Very few have the will to do what it takes."In a six-month survey of 200 hospitals using electronic medical records by KLAS Enterprises, Evanston Northwestern was rated to have one of the top systems, said Kent Gale, president of KLAS.

This summer, Evanston Northwestern is planning to offer a second wave of advanced training for its 6,200 clinicians in how to take better advantage of the new system. It is also looking at plans to incorporate bar coding at the point of care and expects to give patients electronic glimpses of their medical record starting in the fall.

In 2001, top executives began to formulate a sweeping advance in the system's electronic capabilities. After convincing its board of directors, Evanston Northwestern took about a year to redesign its processes and select a vendor, narrowing its choice to Epic Systems Corp., Madison, Wis. Phased implementation began in March 2003 and was completed this April.Evanston Northwestern set up a formal training program in an off-campus building and delivered education 16 hours a day, seven days a week.Physicians had to take a set course of training and demonstrate knowledge of the system before receiving a password and retaining admitting privileges, Hillebrand said.

"This was not just an IT project but an effort to transform how we deliver medicine," he said.

Giving the project a high profile also was critical to success, with the underlying goal of improving safety and quality, said Mark Neaman, Evanston president and CEO.

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