Spotlight: Sanger Clinic relies on homegrown cardiology IT applications
Bill Aikens, manager of Sanger Clinic IT team  
In the last five years, Sanger Clinic in Charlotte, N.C., has matured in the cardiovascular services arena, excelling in nuclear cardiology, echo, vascular medicine, electrophysiology and pacemaker services. In order to save money, improve patient data workflow and connect physicians in remote locations, the clinic has relied on in-house docs, allied health and IT personnel to design and develop IT applications.

One of Sanger Clinic’s early strategic developments was the Nucview application, designed five years ago by one of our nuclear cardiologists and later enhanced by the director of the nuclear cardiology department.

Nucview takes test results gathered from nuclear studies through an AAC/Philips nuclear system and streamlines the data into patient-specific fields. This simplifies the coding and billing process, and ensures clarity of the results for the referring physician.

It’s important to note that this and other applications developed in-house are not built for accreditation. In other words, they are not necessarily compliant with DICOM or other standards. They are here to help streamline the flow of patient information. Nucview, for example, consolidates all the databases of all external remote offices so that cardiologists at any remote location can access any report.

Another noteworthy application is the Patient Call Management System (PCMS), created in tandem by IT and nursing. This allows patient calls to be documented and tracked, from initiation to resolution, eliminating confusion and patient complaints. To date, the system has fielded more than 200,000 calls.

Application developments are not exclusive to the adult cardiology department. An application called Peds Fax was created to allow cardiologists to send immediate referrals by fax to assure proper physician notices and accurate communication, which are maintained in an accessible database for any clinical staff to review.

In use a little more than a year is the “Couda System,” a Coumadin therapy dosage management system that allows the scheduling, follow-up, tracking and notification of patients in the Coumadin program at Sanger Clinic.  

The “EKGenie” is a noninvasive approach to reading the ECG utilizing a web-based application. Student Health Services from universities nationwide can now scan their “paper” ECGs, upload them to a secure website, from which Sanger Clinic physicians can then retrieve and review the study electronically. The results are then entered as an ECG Read Report in a standard format to be electronically (and securely) transmitted back to the university, quickly and efficiently.    

All applications were made with FileMaker Pro, an easy-to-use database software. If the developer of the application leaves the Sanger Clinic, anyone with FileMaker Pro experience can handle modifications, upgrades or repairs.

The above examples are simple and cost-effective ways to enhance your clinic. A typical reporting tool can cost upwards of $15,000, including upgrades, per-client costs, and support. FileMaker Pro costs about $200 per license.

Development from within allows for a comprehensive, in-depth business environment. Larger consultant firms equate larger fees, not necessarily greater results. The benefits of an internally developed IT infrastructure are evidenced by an efficient web of clinical staff, business staff and physicians working closely and creatively to solve problems, save time, and, ultimately, save lives.

Bill Aikens is Manager of Sanger Clinic IT Team.