Conn. hospital moves toward full integration

August 22, 2005

At Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., the pharmacy department has been ahead of the technology curve for quite some time compared with most other hospitals. That's evident from a visit Drug Topics editors paid recently to the hospital.

At Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., the pharmacy department has been ahead of the technology curve for quite some time compared with most other hospitals. That's evident from a visit Drug Topics editors paid recently to the hospital.

While many hospitals are still debating whether or not to implement a computerized physician order entry system versus a bar-code system, for example, Saint Francis has had a CPOE system in place for almost 15 years. In addition, along with decentralized medication cabinets, it deploys a robotic syringe-fill system and a state-of-the-art automated inventory control system. Now it's getting ready to roll out a bedside bar-code system that should be in place this autumn. The next move for Saint Francis will be to introduce an electronic medication administration record [MAR] component into the mix within the upcoming three years-the final step in a strategy that will result in a fully integrated environment.

What distinguishes Saint Francis from other hospitals when it comes to being proactive in the adoption of technology? To hear Mary Inguanti, R.Ph., VP of operations, explain it, it's all about understanding the role of technology in addressing patient safety issues and making the business case for a return on investment. "That case has been made over and over in the literature in terms of what kind of value-added you get by having the safest environment to deliver care," she said.

Up and running since December of 2003, the IntelliFill IV syringe robot from ForHealth Technologies can handle up to 400 syringe fills per hour and has resulted in substantial cost savings compared with the past practice of using commercially available premade flush syringe products. A pharmacy technician runs the robot and a pharmacist verifies all batches.

After Labor Day, Saint Francis expects to roll out a bar-code system on a medical/surgical unit. The system from IDX Systems Corp. will replace manual charting and allow nurses to conduct charting functions at the patient's bedside utilizing bar-code readers and mobile PCs.

But just how much of an advantage does Saint Francis have with cutting-edge technology in place? "The fact that Saint Francis has moved in this direction and has taken a quality approach using technology is certainly to their advantage," said Larry Pawola, Pharm.D., associate professor of health informatics at the College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois, Chicago.

The problem with most hospital organizations, Pawola lamented, is that they're not using the right approach. "It boils down to how well hospitals actually utilize the technology, how well they have integrated it into their operations, their thought processes, and the clinical process of delivering care."

Rolling out an electronic MAR is the next big step for Saint Francis, said Inguanti. "That is a huge goal for us both operationally and strategically and from a quality perspective." The timetable for the e-MAR rollout is three years, but if Inguanti has her way, it will be deployed much sooner.