Midland Memorial Hospital, a 320-bed acute care community hospital in West Texas, has begun to reap some of the benefits of its recently implemented electronic health record system.
With several months under their belts, executives at Midland Memorial figure their experience could serve as a model for other hospitals facing migration from paper to digital.
At least anecdotally, clinicians can point to improved patient care, fewer errors and reduced costs as the hospital begins to compile data to substantiate the return on its $7.1 million investment for the OpenVista software and services it purchased from the Medsphere Systems Corp. of Aliso Viejo, Calif.
Midland is the first private-sector hospital in the nation to fully implement the Veterans Health Administration’s Vista electronic medical record.
“We felt we completely understood the risks of a novel project,” said David Whiles, Midland’s information systems director. From the start, Whiles said he and other executives at Midland understood that Open- Vista, which is in use at more than 170 VA hospitals across the country, would cost them less than half as much as commercially available products.
“With the financial challenges we face as the safety-net provider for our community, we were unable to afford a commercial IT solution,” said Russell Meyers, Midland’s president and CEO. “The OpenVista product offered us a proven comprehensive system that we could afford.”
The implementation of OpenVista has made it possible for the hospital to go “paper light,” Whiles said. Midland has automated functions such as registration, pharmacy, lab, materials management and physician orders. The hospital also got rid of its paper charts.
There may be a few pieces of loose paper here and there, but almost every task has gone digital.
The electronic record is the primary source of patient information for all caregivers, and it can be accessed in the hospital, in the physician’s office or even from home.
Whiles calls OpenVista “very functionally rich.”
“The system is extremely mature and extremely robust,” he said.
At Midland, OpenVista runs on Red Hat Inc.’s Linux Enterprise advanced server operating system. The Linux software runs on two Hewlett Packard servers.
Midland calls the new system EDITH—Electronic Data Information for Team Healthcare.
Midland Memorial paid for the software and implementation in part with a grant from the VHA Health Foundation.
“Midland Memorial has broken the cost barrier with an information technology system that is economical and relatively quick to deploy,” said Linda DeWolf, president of the VHA Health Foundation. “This is a good alternative for other small and mid-sized hospitals and Midland Memorial already is sharing what they’ve learned with other hospitals around the country and the world.”
Whiles, who conceived and oversaw the project, is happy to share what he’s learned.
“Our ultimate hope is that EDITH will improve patient safety, but I’ve become aware of the national implications of what we are doing here, of showing that this is a real, viable solution for other hospitals of similar size and with similar financial constraints,” he said.
[Click here to access a case study describing how Midland did eventually use EDITH/OpenVista to improve patient safety and quality.]