Thursday, July 15, 2004

evanston northwestern healthcare and emr

the telemedicine weblog points to a group of buisnessweek articles on healthcare informatics. one of them is about the evanston northwestern healthcare system's move to EMR. here's the skinny:

...A 6,200 employee health-care provider with annual revenues of $1 billion and three hospitals and a research center in the Chicago suburbs, Evanston North is one of a small number of health-care institutions in the U.S. to go completely paperless. The $60 million project puts virtually ever process in the hospital online, from purchase orders and prescriptions to scheduling surgical bays and transcribing medical records.
The project took three years, finishing in late May. All three hospitals and 50 affiliated doctors' offices are now paperless. It's very early, but Neaman says the results are promising. Doctors now receive patients' mammogram test results in a single day, compared to a three-week wait before. Errors in transcriptions and prescriptions have fallen significantly. And late administration of medication to patients has dropped by 70%.
Before the big technology overhaul, Neaman's nurses spent one-third of their time reading and writing paper charts. Now they spend less than half that time on electronic charts. According to Neaman, the organization could save $10 million per year.
Today, that future is still more vision than reality. Annual health-care spending in the U.S. will hit $1.8 trillion in 2004, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid. But less than 5% of that will go into information technology -- far short of what's found in financial institutions and most other service-oriented industries.
Worst of all, the soaring price tag for the creaky health-care system is growing far faster than the U.S. economy -- and becoming a potential drag on businesses burdened with rising costs. Over the past five years, annual health-care cost increases for U.S. employers averaged 11.5%, according to human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates. In 2004, that's expected to hit 12.6%.
The majority of insurance companies and other entities on the financial side of the medical sector use advanced info tech to run their businesses. But its use inside doctors' offices, nursing homes, hospitals, and clinics remains shockingly low.

Basic economics explains some of the disparity. Hospitals and other health-care institutions lack the necessary capital to invest in costly IT overhauls. And efficiency gains from IT usage don't add to the providers' revenues. Rather, insurers capture those gains, because they benefit from less costly care and services per subscriber. "The fundamental reason why health-care IT hasn't been adopted is there has been a misalignment of incentives," says Middleton.


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