Even though it’s spread across nearly 78,000 square miles, Nebraska’s health care community is being drawn together thanks to a statewide technology initiative.
Launched about two years ago, the Nebraska Statewide Telehealth Network is designed to link hospitals, public health departments, laboratories, and state agencies via videoconferencing. The videoconferencing will allow users to share data and information for clinical consultations, continuing education classes, and public health and bioterrorism alerts.
The network, which was scheduled to be up and running by CAP TODAY press time, will include 88 hospitals, most of which are in rural locations, says Dennis Berens, director of the Nebraska Office of Rural Health, Lincoln. Completion took nearly six months longer than planned, in part because of the challenges involved in building the technology infrastructure. For example, Berens explains, many places in Nebraska did not have T1 line capacity, which allows for high-speed data transmission.
"What drove the network is the realization that we needed to be able to provide better access to care to our citizens," says Berens. "And obviously, we saw the wave coming, with the emphasis on HIT [health information technology], and we didn’t want to be left behind."
So far, the network has been used for videoconferencing between hospitals and their affiliates, but statewide consultations have not yet taken place, says Roger Keetle, senior vice president of advocacy for the Nebraska Hospital Association. "So, we’ve really got a long way to go as far as using this for patient consulting. But we thought that education and educational programs would be the first use anyway. From that perspective, I think things are going okay," he says. However, he adds that, "We’ve been sort of disappointed that the phone companies haven’t been as cooperative as we thought they might be to get this thing up and going."
Along with establishing a corporate structure, the next phase includes installing a scheduling software system so the network won’t be overloaded with too many users at once, which Keetle says is his greatest concern. "I think we’ve got plenty of bandwidth at this time to do probably several videoconferences at the same time," he says. "My fear is that all of a sudden it will go from nothing to too busy. And, we want to be able to handle the peak times."
The telehealth network eventually may serve as the backbone for the state’s broader adoption of electronic health care records, a project called the Nebraska Health Information Initiative. Still in the developmental stages, the latter initiative is part of the state’s response to the Bush Administration’s call for the creation of electronic medical records, according to Kevin Conway, vice president of health information for the Nebraska Hospital Association. The project’s partners, a collaboration of representatives from various health care associations, hospitals, physician groups, and providers, are now determining what to include in an electronic health care record, he says.
"They’re focusing on information like e-prescribing, lab results, and radiology images," Conway says, noting that the details of integrating the EHR with the closed network of the Nebraska Statewide Telehealth Network system also have to be worked out.
The overall goal is to make health care records from various providers, from physicians to mental health therapists to dentists and chiropractors, accessible to patients and their providers of choice, says Berens. "Our vision," he adds, "is to have a patient-centric, totally integrated statewide model."
Orchard Software recently introduced an integrated anatomic pathology module for its Orchard Harvest laboratory information system.
The AP module provides direct access to cytology, pathology, and clinical laboratory results, including all historical results. It employs a "worksheet" screen with templates that can be customized to a specific laboratory’s procedures or displayed as a standardized protocol. Multi-level sign-out procedures allow cases to be forwarded for review and final approval.
The module’s image-management tools permit a user to easily link gross or microscopic images, or both, to the case worksheet and patient report. The software supports a number of common image formats and allows pertinent comments to be associated with each image.
ThermoGenesis Corp. and Mediware Information Systems have announced that they will collaborate on developing a design for a fully integrated logistics system to make personalized cell and tissue therapy safer and more accessible.
The new system would link Mediware’s CPS cellular products system, which provides advanced configurable workflow and inventory-management functionality, with ThermoGenesis’ BioArchive system for cryopreserving and archiving cord blood stem cells for future transplant, AutoXpress system for isolating and capturing stem cells, and CryoSeal fibrin sealant system for preparing an autologous protein transfer media for affixing stem cells in a target site.
Creative Computer Applications, a clinical information systems provider, and StorComm, a provider of picture archiving communication systems and clinical image-management systems, have finalized their merger, announced earlier this fall.
The newly merged company is named Aspyra Inc.
The Blood Connection, a nonprofit community blood center in Greenville, SC, has contracted for Information Data Management’s Prelude donor room management system. Prelude automates and manages the blood donation process.
Optio Software has contracted to provide its QuickRecord suite of electronic health record software and MedEx forms-automation applications to HomeTown Health, an organization of 48 rural hospitals in Georgia.
Mediware Information Systems has announced that it will install its HCLL Transfusion and HCLL Donor management systems at New York University Medical Center, New York City.
Sacramento County (Calif.) Department of Health and Human Services has implemented Atlas’ Public Health Information Network suite, a Web-based disease surveillance, reporting, and case-management system.
Dr. Aller is director of bioterrorism preparedness and response for
Los Angeles County Public Health Acute Communicable Diseases. He can be
reached at email@example.com. Hal Weiner
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