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HMS: Client involvement is key to future product development

August 1, 2007
by root
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Healthcare Management Systems, Inc. (HMS), Nashville, enjoyed a record-breaking year for client contracts in 2006. The company's client roster of nearly 600 added some mid-sized hospitals, yet most of the company's business is proudly rooted among community hospitals, critical access hospitals, long-term acute care and behavioral health facilities that are anxious for affordable technology to streamline their information technology needs, notes Steve Starkey, vice president of product development. HMS develops and supports an integrated hospital information system providing a full suite of financial and clinical software offerings to hospitals nationwide.

"One area we've seen really grow in the past 12-18 months is the long-term acute care market," he adds. "Our specialized LTAC reporting capabilities, multi-entity architecture and ASP offering makes our solution particularly attractive to start-up LTAC companies as well as existing companies looking to leverage technology as they grow their businesses."

HMS, which secured the #50 slot on the 2007 Healthcare Informatics Top 100 list, actively brings its clients into its product research and development loop, says President and COO Thomas Stephenson.

When HMS recently decided to rewrite its nursing documentation product, Patient Care Documentation, using Java technology, the company asked its nursing clients to give feedback on what features the system should have and how to design the user interface to optimize workflow.

"Before we ever wrote the first line of code, we formed a nursing advisory board mainly of customers to work with us on developing this product," Stephenson says. "They were able to touch it and feel it throughout the whole process. By the time we finished it, it had already gone through an extensive usability test from a nursing standpoint."

The revamped version now includes seamless workflow integration with the company's electronic medication administration product, eMAR: "As they're using the patient documentation product, they can easily move to the eMAR product in order to administer medications," Stephenson explains.

"We have expanded the advisory board model to other application areas in order to work more closely with key users and provide a more formal feedback methodology."

Based on a close working relationship with another customer, HMS is also now developing a system that will help facilities that are stuck in a mixed paper/paperless world to transition to an fully electronic environment. Although document scanning has been a part of the HMS solution for many years now, the new system will scan paper documents and route them electronically to the reviewing departments, Starkey says. "If information is missing or needs to be signed, it can be sent to the clinician online for an electronic signature." The new solution is anticipated on the market by the end of 2007.

Striving to provide its customers with a more robust product offering and the best overall solution, HMS formed a 2007 partnership and reseller agreement with SSI Group, a Mobile, Ala.-based revenue cycle management solutions vendor. Stephenson estimates that 40 to 50 percent of HMS's clients already use SSI's products, so it seemed "natural and advantageous for us to partner with them, from our customers' billing and cash management perspective," he says. The two companies plan to tighten the integration between their two product suites in order to offer their clients a more seamless workflow for all of their claims management needs.

All of HMS' product enhancements and additions are aimed at a fuller rendering of enterprisewide data and the goal of a truly encompassing patient record, Stephenson explains. "Everyone is realizing that they have to be moving in the direction of an electronic health record," he says. "We try to help our customers build a roadmap to that goal, and to figure out how the pieces will flow into the process."

As a company, HMS is also spending the summer of 2007 engaged in the testing process for certification from the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT), and is slated to apply for certification in August.

Stephenson agrees that being a leading industry vendor for nearly a quarter-century gives HMS a unique perspective on the role of IT in managing hospital operations and the delivery of patient care.

"It gives you a perspective of the trends in the market and the cyclical nature of technology," he says. "These days, many hospitals, large and small, struggle with implementing advanced clinical solutions because they're such a change to the daily workflow of the clinician, and they impact so many people in the hospital. These implementations have to be carefully planned and executed to ensure success and deliver the ultimate result of improving quality of care."