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Whatever the Weather

October 23, 2007
by root
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Touro says even if it hadn't weathered the storm of Hurricane Katrina it might still have looked to partner with one of the big guys.

by Victoria Klejmont

After recovering from significant damage and business-interruption costs following Hurricane Katrina, Touro Infirmary, a not-for-profit, 154-year-old organization based in New Orleans, turned to Malvern, Pa.-based Siemens Medical Solutions for management of its information technology (IT) services, signing a comprehensive 10-year agreement.

Touro CEO and President Les Hirsch believes that the switch from "running their own shop" to outsourcing with Siemens would have happened even if Katrina had not occurred. "I think the case could have been made for outsourcing even before Katrina because some of the same challenges existed — we were challenged financially, and we were challenged in terms of the labor market," he says. "We're challenged as an independent organization that has enough critical mass and resources to do it on our own. We were challenged pre-Katrina in terms of not being able to take the full measures necessary to build in the kind of redundancy we needed for disaster recovery."

In the past, Touro — a 500-bed hospital, a 240-bed nursing home and assisted living center, and the recently acquired 130-bed St. Charles General Hospital, along with a physician group employing 35 doctors — had been lacking in infrastructure investments and improvements according to Hirsch. He believed that without having optimally-functioning IT systems, Touro was at a risk for falling behind in the ever-changing technology environment.

The partnership, according to Siemens, allows the company to work with Touro to improve its operational and financial efficiencies and add to its investment in IT resources. According to Hirsch, the IT solutions implemented, including Siemens Med Administration Check Solution, are designed to meet Touro's redundancy needs for disaster recovery while still helping the organization stay as independent as possible in the long run.

The Med Administration Check solution will automatically validate and document medication using bar code technology and save it to the patient's EMR, Siemens says. This process should allow better clinical decision making and more precise patient billing, according to the vendor.

Previously, Touro has implemented a variety of Siemen's Invision applications in an effort to streamline information across clinical, financial and administrative functions. Hirsch believes this has helped to improve patient care.

"We've taken off the table all of those challenges we would have had financially and otherwise, had we gone it alone," Hirsch explains. The Med Administration Check solution that is now being implemented was designed by nurses and pharmacists and supports nursing medication and administration workflow by launching online, point-of-care IT technology to reduce errors.

The Touro-Siemens partnership is also providing Touro with diagnostic imaging technologies such as interventional cardiology, nuclear medicine, and echocardiography, says Siemens. In the history of the relationship, Touro has installed the first of a biplane flat detector cardiac catheter imaging system, and recently installed syngoDynamics, a picture archiving and communications system (PACS).

"It was clear to me that we really were going to benefit by millions of dollars over that 10 year period, and we would be able to advance our organization and do something that we never could have done on our own from the standpoint of capital investment," says Hirsch, "It was very obvious to us and evident that the manpower and the kind of resources that we would need in our ability to afford those resources long-term was going to be questionable (without Siemens)."

Hirsch was reluctant to partake in outsourcing, but feels that the move has paid off immensely. "When you outsource something like IT, you have to go into it with your eyes open, it's a potentially complex and detailed arrangement," he says. "I think that the people on Siemens' side as well as on the Touro side did an outstanding job of bringing this to a conclusion."

Hirsch believes that Touro now has the benefit of the critical mass of a larger organization that will help to keep the hospital as independent as possible in the future. Touro's IT staff also benefits from the arrangement, giving it the IT resources of Siemens for the future, says Hirsch. "There's no question in our minds about Siemens' ability to deliver on everything that we've envisioned in this relationship."

Victoria Klejmont is a contributing writer based in Summit, N.J.