The need for quality healthcare is apparent. Most healthcare enterprises operate in a competitive environment. At the same time, healthcare costs, a function of shifting demographics and technological advances, are rapidly escalating. Hospitals across the country are struggling to contain costs while ensuring patient safety and high-quality care. Alegent Health, an 11-year-old non-profit health system based in Omaha, Neb., that serves Nebraska and southwestern Iowa is investing in technology to help provide unparalleled quality.
The roots of Alegent Health stretch back to 1996 when Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives signed a joint operating agreement with Immanuel Health Systems of Omaha. The organizations embraced a lofty goal: to offer the highest quality care as a faith-based, non-profit healthcare system.
Over the last 11 years, the original organization has grown dramatically. Initially, a six-hospital organization, Alegent Health now comprises nine acute-care hospitals and more than 100 service sites including health clinics, emergency departments and wellness centers. The health system includes more than 1,200 physicians and roughly 8,500 employees and touts a 40 percent market share in the Omaha region.
Alegent Health epitomizes efficiency. “We’ve implemented a single human resources, IT and finance solutions to drive efficiency in operations,” explains Senior Vice President and CIO Ken Lawonn. At the clinical level, the organization is focused on integration rather than consolidation and offers services in multiple locations. Alegent Health has been recognized as one of the top 100 most integrated health systems and consistently ranks among the top 20 by Verispan, regarded as the nation’s premier rating system.
Integration turns on connectivity, and Alegent has made the necessary investments. It’s recognized as a top 100 most wired facility and a top 25 wireless site in the Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study released by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine.
Alegent Health solidified its commitment to patient safety and quality several years ago when it created a strategic plan termed The Quality Revolution. The results are outstanding. The health system participates in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Hospital Quality Alliance which is dedicated to measuring quality. Alegent Health is a top performer in scores related to costs and services for heart failure, pneumonia and acute myocardial infarction.
In 2005, the organization launched its Transparency Process for Quality and coined a composite score based on The Joint Commission and CMS measures. Initially, Alegent Health scored in the high 80s or low 90s. In just 18 months, however, scores have climbed and now Alegent consistently achieves 98 to 99 percent scores, says Lawonn. “Teamwork, focus and an acceptance of evidence-based care protocols among physicians and nurses have helped drive these exceptional improvements in our core measure quality scores.”
Another measure of quality is patient satisfaction. Alegent Health consistently ranks in the high 90s, and its newest hospital, Lakeside Hospital, is ranked top in the region.
The technology connection
“Technology is enabler of quality,” affirms Lawonn, and Alegent Health is firmly committed to deploying technology to drive quality improvements. “We are moving as rapidly as possible to a digital environment with our major technology [collaborators] — Siemens Medical Solutions and EMC Corporation,” says Lawonn. The relationship between efficiency and digital solutions is clear. Digital facilitates standardized and efficient processes.
Lakeside Hospital, for example, opened in 2004 with an electronic medical record — Siemens Soarian Clinical Access. The hospital does not print any data that are accessible on the computer, and patient information is immediately available to caregivers at the point of care.
The digital undertaking has progressed rapidly in radiology and cardiology at all sites. “We established a five-year objective to implement digital in all modalities and have been able to achieve our goal in less than four years because of the [alliance] with Siemens,” states Lawonn.
Siemens IT solutions — Soarian Clinical Access, Soarian eHIM, syngo Dynamics and syngo Imaging — deliver images and data across the enterprise, which has resulted in fairly significant workflow gains in radiology and cardiology, Lawonn notes. For example, if one cardiologist excels at interpreting cardiac CT angiography studies, he or she can serve all facilities from one site. This model not only boosts workflow by eliminating drive time between sites but also betters patient care.
Alegent Health established a solid foundation for success in the digital realm by investing in technical infrastructure, too. The entire organization is wireless, which facilitates a portal strategy allowing physicians to access Soarian and the web components of syngo Imaging from anywhere. The health system also invested in redundant servers and infrastructure to ensure uptime and availability.