Spurred by the healthcare industry's push to use technology to improve the delivery and safety of patient care and operational efficiency, Alegent Health last week announced an alliance with Siemens to build a digital hospital from the ground up in Omaha, Neb.
The $64 million, 77-bed Alegent Health Lakeside Hospital is only one component of Alegent's long-term partnership with Siemens, the German electronics and engineering conglomerate. Charles Marr, chief executive officer at Omaha-based Alegent, said the not-for-profit has committed to purchasing $150 million in clinical-care information technology products and other services from Siemens during the next 10 years for its eight hospitals and 100-plus clinics.
"High technology will mean greater efficiency and greater cost savings that will help keep medical costs down," he said.
Hospital systems around the country are committing to similar high-tech, big-bucks contracts, and the newly formed National Alliance for Health Information Technology launched by the American Hospital Association earlier this summer is playing an advisory role (July 1, p. 12). The Washington-based group counts providers, technology vendors and several health and technology associations among its members.
Alegent's regional, integrated healthcare system is currently renovating and updating its four metropolitan area hospital campuses in Nebraska and western Iowa as part of a $100 million building project. Development of the new campus, which will be the first full-service hospital on the western side of Omaha and will offer the first 24-hour emergency department backed by a full-service hospital in western Douglas County, has been under way for more than a decade.
"We're building on five campus sites at the same time and are trying to standardize processes through building design and standardize process improvement across the system," Marr said. "We needed a partner that could step up to help us with the information technology solutions to link it all together."
Siemens, which is emerging as the largest supplier of information technology applications to hospitals and healthcare providers, is also managing HealthSouth Corp.'s much-hyped $240 million, 219-bed "hospital of the future" project, also expected to be completed in 2004.
Both hospitals will have state-of-the art clinical-care information technology such as registration at the patient's bedside, electronic patient records, charts and physician order entry systems, digital diagnostic imaging networks, and wireless communication. But Alegent's Lakeside deal with Siemens may mark the first time a fully integrated digital hospital has been constructed in a smaller community setting, Marr said.
"We're looking at Lakeside as a community hospital prototype where this approach will be tried," he said.
Ken Lawonn, vice president of information technology for Alegent, said although high-profile digital technology projects have been implemented in academic or specialty hospital systems such as the multispecialty Cleveland Clinic and HealthSouth, the industry has yet to see how a digital hospital can support a primary-care-based model of healthcare delivery.
"Alegent is in the heart of America, and we're about the way healthcare is delivered in 80% of the country," he said. "We'll see more partnerships like this."
Marr said the construction of Lakeside is not about the use of high technology for technology's sake. "What we're building is a place where patients will be informed and comfortable, and where the medical staff can practice with the best information available at all times," he said. "It's an exciting concept whose time has come."