Healthcare alliance VHA late last month selected a clinical database developed by Oacis Healthcare Systems as its prime candidate for creating electronic medical records.
The database, called a clinical data repository, is the foundation for compiling, storing and retrieving data on patients from numerous single-purpose information systems at multiple sites. It also creates the capability of analyzing the total collection of patient data to uncover trends in care.
VHA chose the Oacis product from a herd of data-repository competitors during a yearlong research effort as part of its $22 million initiative to help members get moving on their information technology programs.
Begun in September 1995, the initiative set out to endorse and promote a wide selection of information systems that are all required in some way to computerize healthcare processes and feed information to where it's needed quickly and efficiently.
VHA recently decided to change its focus, putting most of its effort into in-depth development of a few key healthcare systems instead of trying to evaluate the breadth of computer components developed for the continuum of healthcare delivery (See related story, p. 54).
As part of a three-year agreement, Oacis will give the alliance a voice in ongoing research and development, allowing VHA to present its feedback on the most urgent needs of healthcare organizations in time for decisions at Oacis on what software features to concentrate on next, said James Burgess, VHA vice president of information technology solutions.
The Greenbrae, Calif.-based clinical systems developer also will provide special support services to VHA members and pay the Irving, Texas-based alliance a percentage of sales to its members in return for endorsing and promoting Oacis products.
In addition to the data repository, VHA evaluated and endorsed a data tracking and organizing tool for multiple-system networks called an enterprise master patient index.
A few years ago, not many healthcare organizations had the prerequisite data entry systems in place to contribute worthwhile content to a data repository. Now those systems are becoming more prevalent in pharmacies, laboratories, diagnostic departments and at the point of care in hospitals and clinics.
A master patient index, integrated with a data repository, was the necessary first step to get far-flung patient records to a final destination as part of a consolidated electronic medical record, Burgess said.
The possible features and functions of a repository are so varied and complex that the four healthcare organizations recruited for the VHA evaluation took a month and a half just to agree on what they wanted in such a database, he said.
The investigation included several days of presentations by vendors and site visits to facilities that had the products up and running.
Hospitals involved in the evaluation were Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., Memphis, Tenn.; Baptist Medical Center, Little Rock, Ark.; Baptist Hospital, Nashville, Tenn.; and Cheshire Medical Center, Keene, N.H.
Oacis also markets clinical data entry and reporting systems that were included as part of the partnership agreement but weren't part of the evaluation, Burgess said.
Often the promotion of one product results in sales of a vendor's related products, he said, and VHA wanted to get credit for those additional sales by including them in the same marketing percentages agreed upon for the endorsed systems.