New Eclipsys Clinical Apps Ease Drug Orders

By M.L. Baker  |  Posted 03-31-2005

Eclipsys Corp. Thursday launched Sunrise 4.0XA, the latest release of its suite of clinical information technology applications, with more than 450 new features in 16 functional areas.

John Gomez, the company's chief technology officer, said the new rollout includes faster and more powerful physician documentation, allowing orders for drugs and procedures to be linked and managed in more complex ways. In addition, default settings for long-term diseases, particularly cancer, adapt for different stages of disease.

The idea was to enable doctors to complete tasks with "the least possible amount of interaction with the device," Gomez said, so the new version reduces the number of clicks physicians need to make to complete an order and adds in billing codes automatically to eliminate additional entries.

Many of the new features stemmed from extensive collaboration with customers, Gomez said. Customers participated online, in person, and over the phone.

"We had a fake hospital that customers could log into from their hospital, and essentially become part of the QA team," he said. In addition, clinicians from different hospitals worked directly with the software development team. The "customers really wanted to participate," Gomez said, adding that he was surprised at how willing they were to travel and stay involved.

Dale Sanders, CIO of the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, was not involved in the development project but welcomed the collaboration between customers and vendors after hearing a description of the process. Other companies, particularly Epic Systems Corp., have worked closely with customers, he said. "It's relatively unique in health care, though not in other industries."

He said good software development requires separate and constant input from customers, technicians, and analysts or facilitators, though that often doesn't happen. "[Health IT developers] try to combine the customer and the programmer roles a lot, so you get those poorly developed products," he said.

Health IT vendors are often criticized for failing to design products that function in the hectic, disruption-filled environment of most health care settings.

Kelly Basfield, clinical project director at Robert Wood Johnson Health System and Network in New Jersey, said that her institution had seven analysts from two hospitals participating. Eclipsys engineers made the latest prototype available online every Monday, she said.

"You'd log in and configure away, test things out, provide feedback, report problems, questions, concerns and bugs." Every other Monday, Basfield said she would join representatives from other facilities on a conference call with the Eclipsys development team. Eclipsys also hosted a listserv for customers to post questions and suggestions. She said the interaction with other users was "one of the most valuable things" for tailoring the system to their needs, and that fellow participants "have provided countless pieces of information."

Basfield said that one of her favorite functionalities is the ability to have a shared database that tailors order entry forms for and within each hospital. That feature allows the system to adapt to how clinicians work in different settings. She also described a change that she had requested herself. In an unreleased version, care providers that registered themselves as no longer caring for a particular patient would not see a change in their patient listings until the next day. "It's an irritation to the physicians, so we wrote an enhancement request, and Eclipsys fixed that," she said.

Gomez said that his company had also "opened up" several components of the software to allow users to easily customize applications and integrate software with third-party vendors. Eclipsys provides free training for people who want to use Objects Plus/XA.

Thirty-seven customers are scheduled to start the new version between now and July 2005. Last year, which had a less comprehensive release, more than 50 institutions activated Eclipsys' Sunrise products.