EMR in the Clouds

By Wylie Wong Print this article Print

The health care industry continues to invest heavily in Information Technology in an effort to improve patient care and get a handle on rising medical costs.

EMR in the Clouds

Not every health care provider implements EMRs in-house, however. Small clinics and doctors’ offices can subscribe to EMR applications, rather than purchasing and installing the technology themselves.

Consider Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, which offers EMR and revenue-cycle management applications to its medical staff who own their private practices, as well as to independent practices in the region. 

Not only is it more cost-effective for the community-based practices, but they don’t have to fret about troubleshooting and maintenance. “They don’t have to worry when a server goes down,” says Michele Fronckiewicz, the medical center’s executive director and business manager.

The medical center’s Community Practice Services department, which provides the service to the local practices, turned to the Dell health care cloud to host the EMR and revenue-cycle management applications. “Having a hosting partner take care of our servers and refreshes and redundancy has enabled us to invest in supporting the applications—and, at the end of the day, that is all the doctors care about,” she says.

Today, the medical center’s Community Practice Services department has 14 clients across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Staffers from the community-based practices connect to the health care software using remote desktop connections. The patient and office data are housed in SQL Servers in the Dell cloud, Fronckiewicz says.

The medical center is currently rolling out patient portals to help practices meet meaningful-use requirements. Through the portals, patients can email their doctors questions, request prescription refills and access health records.

Analyze Unstructured Data

To reduce its readmission rates, Seton Healthcare Family recently installed IBM’s new Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare software, which integrates structured and unstructured data and uses natural-language processing and content analytics. Seton, a member of Ascension Health, installed the software using virtual servers in Ascension’s private cloud.

The software—combined with IBM’s Cognos business intelligence tool—will allow Seton to analyze its unstructured EMR patient data, such as physician notes, nurse assessments, discharge summaries and other medical documents, says Seton’s Leslie.

“We want to understand what it is about patients that is causing them to be hospitalized—and then prevent it,” he says. “This will help us identify high-risk patients, give us context as to why they are high risk and allow us
to intervene.”

Seton is initially running a pilot, focusing on patients with congenital heart failure. In the future, they will use the analytics software on other patients with high readmission rates, as well as look for quality improvement initiatives, such as gaining insight into how to make surgical care safer and less costly.

“Seton is addressing these challenges earlier than many, but everyone will need better data on patients,” Leslie says. “As more health systems use EMRs, they all will have the same unstructured data. And as the government wants more reporting on quality measures, everyone will need to figure out how to manage their unstructured data.” 

This article was originally published on 2012-01-19
Wylie Wong is a freelance writer for Baseline magazine.
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