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Vital Signs

At Jefferson Regional Medical Center, patient care is technology driven

At Jefferson Regional Medical Center, patient care is technology driven
Photo by Wesley Hitt

Watching the Bottom Line

As the fourth-largest hospital in Arkansas, Jefferson Regional has its hands full, serving some 280,000 residents in 13 counties. Headquartered in Pine Bluff, it's licensed for 471 beds (385 are in operation) and works with a daily average of 240 patients, who are cared for by 150 credentialed physicians and between 1,800 and 2,040 supporting staff.

Many of its patients are indigent, so the organization deals with many Medicare, Medicaid and self-pay patients. Mehyou says this leads to "a tremendous amount of record keeping. And because we're not part of a large corporation, we have to do everything in-house, including most of our financials, and we have to expense all of that. As a result, we have to watch our bottom line very carefully - and we're very successful in doing so."

Although it has a robust IT environment, including the i825 running a health-information system from McKesson HBOC Inc., Jefferson Regional has a lot of different data to parse - ranging from admission trends to staff productivity to the general state of the hospital's financials. No small task, given that there are around 75 departments that both generate and require this type of information, whether they're one-person departments or the larger accounting office. "Someone always needs something," Mehyou says. "Managers want to look at their financial and productivity numbers. Executives want similar information but rolled up so it's unique to them. And the clinicians are looking for statistical analyses of our patients, not as individuals, but as a group."

Prior to adopting WebFOCUS, Jefferson Regional had been using FOCUS, which runs on the System i platform, as its main reporting tool. It was - and still is, in some cases - used for "big analysis of information, of patient billing, of patient demographics," Mehyou notes. While this was fine for power users or those with a techie bent, it left others wanting. "It was very difficult for our managers to go in and tab into these complex files and write their own reports," Mehyou recalls. And for those who couldn't, one of the few alternatives was to go to the IT department or to Mehyou - who has his own department, which he jokingly refers to as the "Morie Mehyou department" - to request reports.

Of course, this posed its own set of issues, not the least of which was that users still weren't getting the exact information they wanted. This wasn't the fault of the IT department or Mehyou, but more often, a lack of specificity, with information gatherers knowing what they wanted but not necessarily clearly sharing their needs with the IT department. The result was reports that had too little or too much information, or contained information different from what other executives, managers and clinicians had requested.

Because of these difficulties, sometimes people wouldn't run reports at all, or would do so after the information was obsolete. After all, the ability to write and run queries wasn't necessarily part of their job descriptions or may be beyond their technical prowess. And the IT department was often too busy working on other projects to drop everything and respond to a report request. The solution, it appeared, was an easy-to-use, self-service reporting tool.

"We're automating patient care. It's all data driven. It's science. We can automate it." - Morie Mehyou, Jefferson Regional Medical Center

Jim Utsler, IBM Systems Magazine senior writer, has been covering the technology field for more than a decade. Jim can be reached at jjutsler@provide.net.


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