Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Claudette Lew on Health IT Executive Forum and is republished here with permission.
Van Buren County Hospital serves as an anchor for nearly 8,000 residents, attending to all of their healthcare needs. To keep up with medical advancements as well as increasing federal healthcare regulations, healthcare facilities of all sizes are increasing investments in health IT to achieve more efficient operations, more coordinated care, better communication and ultimately, better patient health outcomes.
However, like many of the 2,000 rural facilities across the U.S., VBCH strives to provide patients with the highest quality of care while simultaneously tackling the financial challenge of investing in modern equipment and health IT upgrades. In an environment of consistently decreasing reimbursement compounded by low patient volumes due to remote geographic locations, it can be difficult for remote facilities to offset the high fixed costs for those investments. When VBCH’s leadership made the decision to invest in McKesson Radiology™, they were ultimately selecting a state-of-the-art, scalable solution for diagnostic imaging that is a perfect fit for their needs. Not only did it streamline their workflow, it’s also assisting them in reaching their Meaningful Use status, as well as boosting recruiting efforts. A team from VBCH shares its experience regarding the implementation and use of McKesson’s solutions and how the technology has impacted operations, and patient care, as well as propelled VBCH in meeting its goals.
“One of the main drivers behind investing in new technology for the hospital,” explains Dr. Tim Blair, Director of Emergency Services at VBCH, “was to streamline our workflow and increase our efficiency in delivering patient care. We’re working smarter using our PACS solution. Our flexibility has increased by an order of magnitude. PACS gives us the option to look at images in a digital format from any computer, whether in the Emergency Department, at one of the outlying clinics, or at home. It gives us the added flexibility to have the radiologist give us a report if we need to have that immediately. No longer do we need to pull film jackets, or look up previous films for additional context. Our workflow is ten times quicker.”
VBCH serves the healthcare needs of the community at the hospital facility, as well as via healthcare providers at six outlying clinics. Dr. Blair noted that PACS has simplified the workflow especially when it comes to information exchange between the hospital and clinics. The clinic staff are able to pull up and view the patient images themselves, without relying on a call from the ER physician to give an opinion, as was done previously.
As a rural facility, VBCH works closely with a university, in this case, the University of Iowa, and the PACS to date, has made for seamless interoperability between the two medical facilities.
Staff is also impressed with the clarity and quality of the images on the solution. “An additional benefit we’ve found since moving to our new solution is that the quality of the images is better,” reports Betsy Caviness, Radiology Department Director at VBCH. “For example, it can sometimes be difficult to detect a hairline fracture on film, but with McKesson, the clarity of the image is such that hairline fractures can be seen much more quickly and clearly.”
Upgrading Health IT
Under pressure from the U.S. government, healthcare providers, including the nation’s rural healthcare facilities, are upgrading their healthcare IT to comply with the vision for universal adoption of electronic medical records (EMR) throughout the healthcare industry. The benefits of EMR are well-documented, and rural facilities are uniquely positioned to benefit from their implementation and use. In addition to the available financial incentives through the Meaningful Use program, upgraded healthcare IT capabilities have the potential to transform how facilities like VBCH collect, manage, store and use health information, providing increased access to medical records and more coordinated care, along with the ability to compile regional data.
“Our medical imaging system is fully integrated with our EMR,” says Chris McEntee, Chief Information Officer at VBCH. “One of the other drivers behind investing in a solution was to have that connectivity and feed information directly into our EMR using computerized physician order entry (CPOE), a requirement to achieve Meaningful Use Stage 2. This system helps out with that — in fact, it makes the entire process seamless all the way through and propels us forward toward that goal. Everything is electronic, from the provider ordering the study, to the read and the report.”
Quick and Easy Connection to Support
Committing to the investment in VBCH’s growth was the obvious choice. Given the scalability of its medical imaging solution and its indispensable support team, McKesson was also the obvious choice to provide that solution. According to the VBCH group, implementation was extremely successful because of the thorough planning, involvement and active support from the McKesson team.
“It was refreshing to see that we didn’t have to be a large facility to garner such a high level of commitment and support from a healthcare IT vendor. We really feel like McKesson is our partner and did everything necessary to help us achieve our go-live date goal,” explains Caviness.
The McKesson implementation team held weekly meetings with a dedicated group of staff at VBCH, as well as a representative from the University of Iowa to ensure interoperability with that facility.
The staff at VBCH, from physicians to IT is pleased with how the system has impacted their daily work. “I don’t have to worry about our healthcare IT,” says McEntee. “You just turn it on and it goes. We have a very small IT staff and they are freed up to focus on other projects and initiatives, feeling confident about the stability. In fact,” he continues, “from an IT perspective, it’s one of the easiest products I’ve ever worked with. It just works.”
Additionally, staff at VBCH don’t experience that dreaded feeling of intimidation if they ever need to call McKesson for support, which can oftentimes happen with IT-based solutions. “It’s nice to be out in the middle of nowhere,” says Caviness, “and know I can pick up the phone and speak with someone about our system. They’ve been able to walk me through any question I had, and I’ve never been on the line longer than ten minutes and the issue was resolved. Our McKesson support team definitely earns an A+.”
Rural hospitals are typically the largest employer in a region, and often stand alone in their ability to offer highly skilled positions. The team at VBCH found that their investment in a healthcare IT solution has also helped them with recruiting. “Using our technology has improved our ability to recruit in a competitive market,” explains Dr. Blair. “It can be difficult to get physicians to come out to rural areas, especially when you say we don’t have a departmental solution or have an EMR. Our investment in these technologies has definitely impacted our ability to recruit general physicians, as well as radiologists. But more importantly,” he concludes, “it allows us to provide better care to our patients because we have better records where we can archive and share information and review historical data when we see patients. Our patients are able to get quality care right here in their own community.”
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