This is an archived article. For the latest news, go to the Advance Homepage
For more archives, go to the Advance Archive/Search Page.


  October 6, 2003

New Computer System To Improve Patient Services

There's a revolution under way in the cyber main street and by-ways of the Health Center.

The revolution goes under the rubric of "Patient Safety System," and it is bringing about a change not just in the processes of health care, but in the very manner providers treat patients. It is a gigantic undertaking, costing $15 million over seven years. The principals are the Health Center's clinical operations division and Siemens Corp.

The new system, the computerized framework within which medical care is delivered, will soon start taking effect on hospital floors and in clinics. No more paper. Everything will be online.

The first phase is scheduled to be rolled out by the end of March 2004.

"This is one of the largest, most complex efforts ever implemented at the Health Center," says Roberta Luby, project manager. "We've never tried to put this number of integrated applications in place at once across all three major clinical entities: the John Dempsey Hospital, UConn Medical Group, and Correctional Managed Health Care. It will impact many aspects of patient care."

Wireless workstations will be available on the hospital floors and in the clinics. Care providers will enter what they're doing online at the workstation, and the computer will do the rest.

Doctors will write evaluations and place orders electronically through the system. Nurses will check charts, review progress, and enter notes and observations through the system. Lab tests will be ordered and reported back through the system. And medical records will be updated, stored, and accessible online.

Pharmacy orders also will be filled through the system, but there will be built-in safeguards so that patients' allergies and any dosing contraindications are flagged. The system will also check those medications against ones already prescribed, to ensure compatibility. Diagnostic imaging - x-rays, sonographs, and CAT- and PET-scans - will be scheduled and posted on the system, and rehabilitation therapists will chart their patients' progress online.

The billing office will have ready access to precise information, leading to improved efficiency and accuracy.

"We're establishing something that will make a difference in patients' lives and safety," Luby says. "The system will reduce the number of steps between the physician placing the order and the patient receiving services, and so reduce the potential for error."

Because of the project's scope and complexity, it is being phased in. The part of the system configured for operation in the inpatient units is called Invision. Milestones in the implementation schedule are:

  • End of the first quarter of 2004
    The Lifetime Clinical Record, which replaces and enhances the data available today, will be implemented. Pharmacy, radiology, and automated case management components will be installed.

  • End of the second quarter of 2004
    The physician order entry feature of Invision, as well as direct interfaces to ancillary departments, such as pharmacy, lab, and radiology, will be initiated.

  • Third quarter of 2004
    Clinical Manager, the application to be used for patient charts, orders, and results for the UConn Medical Group clinics, will be customized and installed according to physician specialty.

  • Fourth quarter of 2004
    CMHC clinics will be brought online with Invision for charting and physician order entry.

  • Phase 2
    The second phase, to include medication administration checking, will begin in 2005. This phase will include the introduction of a barcode and wand system that will integrate patient, care provider, and medication information. A barcode scanner will ensure, says Dr. Richard Simon, chief of medical staff, "right drug, right time, right patient, right dose."

  • Phase 3 will roll out integrated nursing assessments.

  • Phase 4
    The fourth phase will be the installation of clinical decision support.

Says Dr. Steven Strongwater, director of clinical operations, "We are committed to ensuring safe, effective patient care, and this is one step along that journey. The Patient Safety System will materially improve patient safety, medical outcomes, and communications."