With an eye toward improving information systems and reducing medical errors in its 46 hospitals, Trinity Health unveiled plans last week for $190 million in computer software upgrades.
Speaking before 800 administrators, nurses and physicians at Trinity's annual conference in Dearborn, Mich., President and Chief Executive Officer Judith Pelham said her four-year plan would transform the culture at the Novi, Mich.-based Roman Catholic system, which has hospitals in seven states. The upgrades are aimed at reducing errors and inconsistencies in areas such as patient registration, billing and physician orders, Pelham said.
"This is change that will not be easy," she said. "We must accept this mantle of change and transformation because it will dramatically improve quality and safety."
Trinity, the fourth-largest Catholic system in the country, is not the only system that has turned to information technology to reduce medical errors. Earlier this year, Kaiser Permanente announced plans to implement similar software at its hospitals in nine states. In another case, Florida Hospital in Orlando announced plans to install a Web-based clinical information system that enables physicians to study data and laboratory results.
The foundation of Trinity's project consists of a software package that records adverse drug reactions by patients and a system for physician medication orders, which is scheduled to debut in March at Mercy Hospital in Port Huron, Mich. Other hospitals in the Trinity system will follow during the next two years. The adverse drug-reaction software has been used at 13 Trinity hospitals and will expand through the rest of the system in 2003.
Pelham said she did not have a savings estimate for the physician medication-order program, but she said initial estimates showed Trinity will save $23 million annually by using the adverse drug-reaction software at nine of the hospitals that began using the program in 2002. The technology has recorded, on average, 60 cases of adverse reactions per 1,000 admissions, she said.
"The economic impact is clearly an important part in how you justify the investment, but it's not the only point," Pelham said. "It is also philosophical. Being able to fill in the technology through the computer systems gives physicians the best practices at the moment when they need it."
The software upgrades will help physicians do their jobs efficiently and should attract the top healthcare workers in the industry, Trinity administrators said.
"It is a tool that will help us improve decisionmaking at the point of care," said Chief Operating Officer Edgar Carlson. "We are looking for improved care and improved patient safety."
Trinity, which reported net income of $108.7 million-a 53% increase from the prior year-on $4.8 billion in revenue for the year ended June 30, is looking at the project as a catalyst to continue improving its financial performance, Pelham said.
An HHS report in 2001 said computerized medication order-entry systems could prevent 28% to 95% of adverse drug events.