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New computer system installed in Pa. hospital

August 03, 2000

New computer system installed in Pa. hospital



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Hospital beds of the future will plug into a computer system that will monitor a patient's vital signs and progress, area hospital officials say.

That technology will even let a doctor prescribe or change medications over the Internet from home, they predict.

Summit Health, owner of Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals and 22 affiliates in Franklin County, Pa., is installing a new $17.5 million computer system. It will allow the hospitals to have such state-of-the-art beds perhaps within the next five years, said Dr. David Carlson, vice president of medical affairs.

The $17.5 million will be spent over the next five years, he said.

Carlson and Michele Zeigler, vice president and chief information officer, are coordinating the installation of the new computer system.

When installation is complete in two years, the system will connect both hospitals, the new Summit Health Center which opens in January and the health system's 22 satellite affiliates - which include eight doctors' offices - into one main computer system.

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More than 50 Summit employees will spend three days in Boston, Mass., over the next two years in staggered sessions training on the new system. They will teach other employees how to operate the system as the phases come on line.

"There are a lot of new skills involved in this," Zeigler said.

The system is designed to be used by physicians.

"The medical staff is committed to it. It's the wave of the future," Carlson said.

The first phase, scheduled to go on line in December, will hook up Waynesboro Hospital, Summit Health Center and several satellite offices including the new Mercersburg Health Center, Zeigler said. "There's a lot of data to convert so it's easier to start off with the smaller locations first," she said.

The new system will handle all patient records, registration, billing, lab, X-ray and test results. Not only will it save time but it will go a long way toward reducing the risk of medical errors on the part of hospital staffers, Carlson said.

It will make blood and other lab test results available to physicians and patients in hours rather than days, Carlson said. The current system is paper-based, he said.

With the new Internet-based system, a doctor will be able to call up test results on a computer screen, Carlson said.

The system, which Summit calls "CareConnection," will provide a simplified scheduling process, reduce waiting times, improve service and make scheduling medical tests easier since all pertinent patient data will be computerized, hospital officials say.

In time, Carlson said, patients may even be able to schedule their own tests on the Internet since the computer system will know which personnel and facilities are available at a given time.

"This is evolutionary. We can begin to see the power of technology. We're jumping ahead of the cutting edge. This will make us as up to date as we can be," Carlson said.

The current computer systems, some of which have been on line since 1984, are beginning to break down, Carlson said. "We had to do something. We couldn't patch it up any more so we decided to move to the best technology available," he said.

Summit Health is buying the system from a Boston-based company called MEDITECH Inc. The company will routinely update the system as new technology becomes available, Carlson said.

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