ScrippsHealth in San Diego is two years into a five-year, $75 million Internet initiative to upgrade its information systems and is pursuing a mix of product branding and consumer connectivity as part of its agenda.
The project, known as ScrippsNet, is being handled in five phases. In the first four phases, which have already been completed, ScrippsNet has:
* Constructed an intranet loop that links Scripps' half-dozen hospitals and medical groups.
* Guaranteed internal security.
* Met the patient confidentiality provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
* Built data-exchange links with payers.
The last phase--and what ScrippsHealth officials consider the most important--is to allow patients and their physicians to manage caregiving from their desktop computers.
In public presentations about ScrippsNet, ScrippsHealth Chief Executive Officer Stanley Pappelbaum, M.D., has stressed a philosophy that puts the patient first and that improves service as the system pursues its Internet agenda.
"We want to really enable some innovation through our new levels of connectivity," says Jean Balgrosky, ScrippsHealth's chief information officer.
But patient connectivity must also fit into ScrippsHealth's marketing agenda, which aims to create a brand-name consistency on the clinical and acute-care levels. "No matter where (the patient) shows up in our enterprise, they should have a consistent experience, (so that) it begins to feel the same whether they're in the clinic or hospital," Balgrosky says.
To that end, ScrippsHealth is moving forward with testing patient smart cards among a focus group of 100 patients and 50 physicians prior to a systemwide rollout at a date yet to be determined.
"We'll find out what works, what didn't, and (what will) allow us to shape the larger initiative on the basis of these tests," Balgrosky says.
According to Balgrosky, the smart cards will contain simple but essential patient information that's typically taken during an office visit, such as Social Security number and insurer identification number. A single swipe of the smart card will allow a patient-care transaction to be launched, generating records that may be shared throughout the ScrippsHealth system as needed.
The smart cards are expected to reduce registration errors and will allow a swifter retrieval of a patient's insurance information. "It replaces the clipboard in the lobby," Balgrosky says.
Data exchange with the patient's insurer will also be improved, likely making reimbursement to ScrippsHealth faster. Moreover, it will encourage ScrippsHealth's providers to process claims information using smart cards. In other words, card-swiping should become a familiar experience with ScrippsHealth patients.
However, providers won't be the only ones experiencing more ease in processing patients. The patients themselves will be able to preregister for appointments using their computers. They will also be able to construct their own World Wide Web page, loading it with family and demographic information that may then be forwarded to individuals in the ScrippsHealth system. Security will be guaranteed and is yet another component of the branding initiative, according to Balgrosky. "It will give them a secure, solid feeling about Scripps," she says.
In another computer-driven initiative to help patients, Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, Calif., is among hospitals in seven states employing laptop computers to help stroke victims recover their language skills.
A software program, created by Oakland, Calif.-based LingraphiCARE America, is installed on a modified laptop. As a supplement to their regular therapy, patients can take the computers home with them and use them to peruse graphic representations of objects. Click on the object with a mouse, and the name of the object is announced over the computer's speaker.