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|Riverland LaRHIX program praised|
When Riverland Medical Center was chosen to receive funding for the Louisiana Rural Health Information Exchange (LaRHIX), it put the Ferriday rural hospital ahead of the game, said Riverland's Point of Care Contact Melinda Patt, who has spearheaded the transition at the Ferriday hospital.
In additon to providing a service to patients, this program is already improving the hospital's financial position and is expected to provide savings in the months ahead, according to Administrator Vernon Stevens.
LaRHIX was formed by the Rural Hospital Coalition through $13 million in funding provided through the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals in the 2007 Legislative Session. LSUHSC-Shreveport hosts and technically supports the "Network"of LaRHIX.
The hospital also serves as the tertiary care site for all 24 of the rural hospitals in the exchange.
Patt, who has been at Riverland for four years, starting out as an ER nurse, attended several seminars at Computer Programs and Systems, Inc (CPSI) in Mobile. She said the company provides a complete health information and patient care system that encompasses the full spectrum of financial and clinical applications.
"It was overwhelming at first, but once got used to it and went to Point of Care Conference that put a lot more wind in my sails," Patt said. "It's amazing to see what's out there. It's a challenge for me, but I love challenges. It's really exciting. When I learn something new, the first thing I want to do is pass it on to the staff."
Patt supervised a "live week" in which CPSI officials monitored the use of the system at Riverland.
"They were very impressed with the way we took it and ran with it," Patt said.
Riverland has set up telemedicine hardware and software deployed between LSUHSC-Shreveport enabling LSUHSC physicians to consult and treat patients in Ferriday.
"Doctors in Shreveport can hear a heartbeat from a patient in Ferriday through this system and with the help of nurses even better than if they were in the room," Stevens said. "They can also look right into the eyes, nose and ears of a patient. Using this technology can save people a trip to Shreveport."
The primary purpose of LaRHIX, she said, is to support Louisiana's health information technology initiatives in rural areas. The system develops and maintains the LaRHIX portal that is a health information system which operates over the Internet and enables health care professionals to access medical records from any provider database that is connected to the network.
The electronic health records are accessible to providers, patients and other authorized persons via the LaRHIX portal to minimize time patients requiring specialty care must spend away from their family and home by providing interconnectivity between rural physicians and LSUHSC-Shreveport specialists.
Seven hospitals were chosen to receive funding the first year - Richland Parish in Delhi, Homer Memorial, Union General in Farmerville, LaSalle General in Jena, Hardtner Medical in Olla, DeSoto Regional in Mansfield and Bunkie General.
Riverland Medical Center was one of seven hospitals chosen the second year.
"It was a good thing we were chosen because this year is kind of a wait-and-see," said Stevens. "We were very fortunate to be in the second batch."
Riverland was approved in January and began implementing the program on March 1.
Stevens said the hospital should be 100 percent on line with the program by the end of July.
"It's going to save us money down the road and make us more efficient," Stevens said. "We had a physician the other day looking at an X-ray on his computer and he found a fracture that he may not have found using film. They can brighten or darken the X-rays through this system and flip them around."
Nurses use mobile computers stands in their daily check of patients at the hospital.
"We scan the patient's band and their medication into the computer," Patt said. "It brings them up to date on their status. It's a touch screen and more reliable and easier to access. Patients like it because instead of sitting down somewhere documenting everything we can spend more time at their bedside. It's limitless what the possibilities are in this system. CPSI upgrades every year. We were the first facility to install Version 16, which came out in February. We can run that for four years."
Jean Comeaux, Director of Radiology at Riverland, said the system makes the hospital even more efficient.
"No matter if you are an out-patient, in-patient or ER patient, all of your records are documented on computers throughout the hospital," Comeaux said. "It makes for a quicker turnaround time because patients do not have to wait while films are being taken from here to there."
Stevens said the hospital is benefitting financially right away from not having to deal with the filing of records and other paperwork.
"And down the road we'll see even bigger savings," he said.
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