Intermountain Health, GE Healthcare Join Forces on Electronic Medical Records

Dozens of GE Healthcare software engineers will soon begin work alongside Intermountain Health Care staff in Utah. The two health IT noteworthies announced plans Wednesday to jointly develop systems that do not just verify that patients receive medications as prescribed by doctors, but also make sure that the medication makes sense.

Moreover, constant interaction between engineers and clinicians will make sure that the computer connects caregivers and patients rather than coming between them, said Brandon Savage, medical director of health care IT at GE Healthcare.

“What makes this [project] distinct is that we’re really focusing on how you build a monitor directly into the workflow.”

Clinicians and engineers will work side by side on the project, planned as part of a 10-year, $100 million collaboration between Intermountain Health Care Inc. and GE.

GE is providing its Centricity IT technologies across institutions within IHC’s network, which serve more than 2 million patients.

These installations will enable the widespread use of new software throughout the IHC network, including both hospitals and outpatient facilities.

IHC is known for inventing technologies to help clinicians make better decisions.

“We don’t have databases, we have knowledge-bases,” said Laura Heerman, a registered nurse and medical informaticist with IHC.

IHC and GE staff will work in a joint research center located within an hour’s drive of six IHC facilities, said Heerman, so engineers can readily observe clinicians at work. In addition, clinicians will visit the research center daily.

The program is just one of several collaborations between nonprofit health institutions and software companies.

In April, IBM and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center inked an eight-year, $402 million deal to overhaul the medical center’s IT infrastructure. Duke University Health System has been working with McKesson to implement computerized physician order entry. However, the coordination between GE and IHC seems unusually deep.

IHC has used and designed decision-support software since the 1970s, often working with outside experts, but this is the first time it has joined forces with a global presence, said Heerman.

Headquartered in the United Kingdom, GE Healthcare is a $14 billion unit of General Electric Company with more than 42,500 employees. Some GE software engineers will move to Utah, said Savage, but others will be hired locally.

IHC and GE estimate the research center could create up to 100 new jobs.

“The rich clinical data IHC has collected over the years combined with GE’s clinical information technology programs will enable clinicians to capture and learn from embedded protocols, leading to a significant reduction in medical errors,” said Vishal Wanchoo, president and CEO of GE Healthcare Information Technologies.

The system will integrate physician ordering, pharmacy support, and bedside administration using bar codes and handheld devices linked into patient medical records.

The latest vital signs and other information will alert nurses to consider overriding medication orders. The software should be in use at some IHC hospitals over the next 12 to 18 months.

Heerman said that the software would improve both efficiency and patient safety. “The information is presented in a more useful manner so that less time is spent looking for data, and the decisions can be made more quickly and more accurately.”

To make information accessible, said Savage, GE would be leveraging open-source standards and contributing to them. Barriers to exchanging data cut down on innovation, said Savage, and innovation is what provides value in terms of clinical capabilities.

Savage was rebutting a notion that health care providers can obtain value from the data they hold by keeping such data proprietary rather than sharing medical information with other health care providers.

The project’s success will be measured in terms of reduction in medication errors, length of stay, patient satisfaction and other metrics, said Savage. Another measure for GE will be the number of hospital systems outside IHC that adopt the technologies.

GE Healthcare will sell the software developed at IHC to other hospitals. Savage said that even though IHC is known for its sophisticated use of IT, the network’s 21 hospitals and 92 clinics offer a diverse representation of health care providers’ needs, including some rural hospitals with “almost no technology.”

Another goal of the relationship is providing clinicians with longitudinal information from outpatient visits within the network and being able to pull in information from institutions outside the network.

“About 80 percent of the information is generated outside the hospital, but some of the toughest decisions are made inside the hospital,” said Savage.

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