Health Group Invests in Web-Based System

FRAMINGHAM (03/17/2000) - A group of seven community hospitals in Pennsylvania will invest a half-million dollars in the next 12 to 18 months for an application service provider-based platform that will Web-enable clinical information.

William Gillespie, CIO at South Central Community Health (SCCH) in York, Pa., said that by July 1, his group will go live with an Internet portal that will let caregivers exchange health information.

Healthvision, based in Irving, Texas, will serve as an application service provider by hosting the sites and providing the Web architecture.

Healthvision will also create interfaces with the legacy system and perform Web page design, content management and training, said Dr. Charles Chodroff, senior vice president of care management at SCCH. He said SCCH went with an application service provider because it "didn't want to make the investment in managing a Web domain."

SCCH will initially link up with about 50 caregivers, but the group aims to ultimately reach 700 end users. The project will allow better and more cost-effective communications, Chodroff said.

For instance, a primary physician could access a patient's X ray using a Web browser and send it to a specialist by e-mail attachment. Chodroff said that physicians will be able to send the information over a secure intranet.

Although he didn't have an estimate of total cost savings, Gillespie said SCCH will save money by deploying thin clients instead of PCs and by putting more information online instead of on paper.

Only 10 percent of the estimated 30 billion annual health care transactions are conducted electronically, according to Claudine Singer, a senior analyst at New York-based Jupiter Communications Inc. Most of those are electronic data interchange transactions, with only a fraction conducted over the Internet.

Historically, health care has been slow to adopt new technology, said Singer.

"For years, these guys spent zero on IT. They're so far behind other industries," she said. Health care organizations typically spend at most 2 percent of revenue on information technology to automate processes, which is about one-fifth of what the finance industry spends, said Singer.

But a survey conducted by VHA Inc., a cooperative of community hospitals in Irving, Texas, indicates that the industry may be ready to move online after all.

The survey of more than 300 hospital executives revealed that online access by hospital clinical and support staff members more than doubled from 1998 to 1999. Staff physicians accounted for the biggest increase, from 28 percent to 82 percent.

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