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03-25-05 Advanced health technology coming

By Timothy Cox

  Community Hospital Home Nursing Care and Community Hospital Disease Management Clinic -- both in Celina -- soon will have new technology available that usually is found only in the nation's largest hospitals.

  The software and new computer equipment, which is called a physicians Web portal, will make the offices more efficient and give nurses and doctors access to real-time information. It will make transfer of medical information faster.
  If the system works out, it could be implemented throughout the Mercer Health organization after all its offices begin electronic recordkeeping.
  Mercer Health includes Community Hospital in Coldwater and all of its related services, including those in Celina.
The home nursing care office is located at 1107 N. Main St. The disease management clinic is in the Community Medical Center, 950 S. Main St. Together the offices provide a number of skilled nursing services, handle clinical respiratory therapy and durable medical equipment, work with wound care, infusions, and diabetic care.  The staff of 51 in the home nursing care and disease management offices care for about 1,000 people annually, including 400 on any given day. The new technology will make the nurses' job of relaying information between doctors offices and patients and their families easier, said Laurie Bladen, the registered nurse who runs the office.
  "We're making calls, sending faxes, sending things out in the mail ... this system will reduce a lot of that plus give us access to information in real-time," Bladen said.
  The offices deal with more than 30 local doctors. The new system will save them time, too.
  As an example of how the system can be used, Mercer Health CEO T.J. Padden said a patient could be at the wound care clinic in the Community Medical Center. A nurse could take a digital photo of the wound, make it immediately available for a doctor to review online and have the physician's recommendation in a matter of seconds.
  "The key is, we're going to learn a lot more about this system that will have direct applicability," Padden said.
  Patients and their families also can benefit from the system, Bladen said. Patients, or trusted family members, could access the system to check prescribed medications or other treatments a doctor has recommended.
  Mercer Health officials plan to buy the software and other equipment from Alacare, Birmingham, Ala., at a cost of about $35,000. It will take four or five months to get the system up and running and to get all staff members and doctors trained to use it, Bladen said.
  When it's online, though, the local offices will be unique in the area.
  "We will be the only ones in the area to have anything like this," Bladen said.
  The federal Institute of Medicine has recommended hospital and other health care organizations implement such technology, but most software vendors do not offer it to smaller hospitals.
  Alacare, itself a home nursing care organization, came up with its own version of the technology for smaller entities.
  "This parallels exactly what the Institute of Medicine is recommending, yet you can't find the software," Padden said. "We're thrilled with the situation we've been able to work out."


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