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Lewis County hospital upgrading information management system

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County General Hospital managers on Wednesday received an update about technology projects, including an information management system upgrade.

“We’ve been building a lot of systems,” Robert S. Uttendorfsky, director of information systems at the county-owned hospital, told the board of managers.

Staffers throughout the facility are working on a conversion to the latest information management system — Meditech 6.0 — from an earlier Meditech system, he said.

The project is being partly funded by meaningful use money, or federal stimulus funding that was earmarked for health care information improvements, Mr. Uttendorfsky said.

In order to receive the federal funding, the facility has already undergone a 90-day demonstration period to show proficiency in using electronic systems, he said. It will continue to be tested over the next few years to remain eligible for more money.

The new system is tentatively scheduled to go live in late October, Mr. Uttendorfsky said.

The upgrade will eventually allow for new features like patient portals, which would allow people password-protected access to test results and other medical records, hospital officials said.

The current Meditech system — which handles registration, billing and other financial records — is housed in on-site servers.

Hospital officials have determined that it would be more cost-effective to rent space off-site and implement a cloud-based system for the new version, which requires more server space, Mr. Uttendorfsky said.

The hospital implemented a Meditech system in 1998 and 1999 but chose to sublicense and share services with Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Potsdam. Officials in 2006 used a $192,540 state grant to bring the service in-house.

As part of the meaningful use program requirements, the hospital recently tested a bedside medication administration system as a pilot program in the maternity department, Mr. Uttendorfsky said. Under the program, caregivers would scan a patient’s information tag, then the medication, and the program would let them know if it was appropriate, he said.

The hospital also has been working with the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization to develop a region-wide database of health records, which would make it easier for physicians to get needed patient charts and health information, Mr. Uttendorfsky said.

When asked about potential for grant funding to further improve technology, the information services director said most of the applications are now being submitted through the regional group, since it tends to have more clout with funding agencies than an individual facility.

Interim Chief Financial Officer Richard Borschuk and Controller Jeffery W. Hellinger on Wednesday also showed board members a few charts showing a steady increase in overall admissions and outpatient visits over the past several years and how an increase in full-time equivalent employees since 2006 from 387 to 532 has corresponded with a similar rise in adjusted patient days at the facility, from 19,342 to a projected 25,979 this year.

The presentation was intended to counter the contention in a recent county-funded study by the Bonadio Group, Syracuse, that job growth at the hospital had not been supported by an increase in patient services.

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