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With monetary federal incentives ready to be doled out in 2011, every sized healthcare organization is taking a long look at how to efficiently and quickly make the move to electronic medical records (EMR), if they have not already. A 2009 research report by SK&A Information Services, Inc. showed that 67 percent of medical offices with four or more physicians do not currently use EMR software. VARs that can meet rapid timelines and provide clear roadmaps and industry know-how are extremely well-positioned to support and aid organizations that have not yet made the move.

One hospital already enjoying EMR benefits is Cooper University Hospital, based in southern New Jersey. CIO Michael Sinno tells a tale of a five year process that began with deciding to move to EMR and ended with successful deployment in April of 2009. CUH made the decision long before stimulus cash was available, motivated by improving patient care and increasing resource efficiency. CUH is and was ahead of the curve of the healthcare market, an industry traditionally slow to adopt bleeding-edge technologies. The hospital carefully and cogently planned and executed its strategy every step of the way. Sinno’s ultimate success provides insight into how EMR implementation works and what returns can reasonably be expected.

“We were focused on providing a better level of care,” said Sinno.  “A key benefit in going from a paper world to an electronic world is you have all medical history and progress notes and all of that information is available to an admitting physician.”

Sinno assembled an internal team comprised of IT, clinical and business staff to drive the project forward. For three years, CUH’s team looked closely at EMR vendors, conducted pilots and set roadmaps, and, eventually selected Epic Systems.

Motivated by cost containment and ease of management, Sinno and his team opted for a cloud strategy, and the hospital currently hosts all data, infrastructure and software applications related to the EMR deployment. Even though the cloud helps reign in initial deployment costs, Sinno estimates the entire end-to-end costs for the move, including fixed and mobile computing devices at about $40 million over five years.

“Sure, there is efficiency to be gained, but it’s not enough to offset the cost of the project,” said Sinno. “We’re focused on patient safety and patient care.”

However, once federal and insurance “Pay for Performance” incentives kick in, Sinno believes the high data quality contained in the EMR system will allow CUH to optimize its care and subsequent reporting. 
“The system gives us visibility from a holistic point of view,” said Sinno. “A more complete record can be used to improve decision support. 

Sinno said that the hospital will mine data captured to look for anomalies and what may be causing rate spikes in diseases like diabetes. The hospital will then implement preventive measures that will reduce the overall cost of healthcare. 

CUH’s EMR system runs over a wireless infrastructure implemented by networking and unified communications VAR Dimension Data. During the EMR deployment, Cooper University Hospital built a new 10-story pavilion, and decided to utilize the network infrastructure to implement a VoIP call system, track high-value assets with RFID and institute location-based appliances on smart pump medical equipment, devices used for distributing and managing drug dosages.

“We were being told we were short on smart pumps,” says Sinno. “We had enough pumps but they were being hoarded.”

Sinno utilized existing network infrastructure along with Cisco’s location appliance to pinpoint and manage the locations of the smart pumps. Over the course of the first month, CUH realized it did not need more smart pumps, and, consequently, avoided a $1 Million expenditure.

Dimension Data Americas executive vice president and chief operating officer Wesley Johnston said the solution provider knows that to capitalize on the healthcare marketplace, it is crucial to build out vertical expertise.

“Our experts need to understand the industry’s business processes, and we are building out our partnerships and our teams to do just that,” Johnston said. “This is essential for success in a highly specialized market like healthcare.”