Evanston's approach to using outsourcing isn't necessarily to save money on information technology operations but rather to save on clinical and administrative operations using information technology.
That strategy is illustrated in two recent applications of technology that:
* Streamline the handling of diagnostic images.
* Automate medication administration.
Late last year Evanston purchased a computer system to handle diagnostic images in a digital format for storage, retrieval and transfer to clinicians who need the images in care and treatment of patients. The image management system from GE Medical Systems comes at a significant capital cost -- terms of the purchase were not disclosed -- but it's also going to eliminate X-ray film, says Jeffrey Hillebrand, Evanston's chief operating officer.
In addition, the images will be more available. They can be accessed as soon as they are created at sites throughout the healthcare system using the Web, he says. Doctors will be able to interpret images as much as a day earlier than they do now, and that means the attending physician can get a report that much earlier and proceed to the next phase of treatment faster.
Ultimately it moves patients more quickly through their hospital encounter and gets them discharged faster, Hillebrand says. And it provides one more computer tool to make Evanston operate as a system instead of a collection of facilities.
An automated medication storage and inventory device in use at Evanston is viewed as a "nurse satisfier" that also helps control costs, he says. The device from Pyxis Corp. automatically controls counts of various medications and keeps track of who is accessing the inventory in what drawer at what time of day. The device eliminates an entire process that formerly had to be done manually, and it "frees nurses to do something else," Hillebrand says.
Before the advent of the automated tracking system, nurses had to conduct counts of narcotics three times a day. Now that work is eliminated, he says. And with the inventory on the inpatient floors replenished by pharmacy employees, nurses don't have to run down to pharmacy for prescribed drugs, he adds. "When the nurse needs medication, it's there."