Beta Maximizer

Gary Baldwin, for HealthLeaders magazine , January 15, 2008
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Dave Ziolkowski leads Sampson Regional Medical Center through a major software development project.

When Dave Ziolkowski took the information technology reins at Sampson Regional Medical Center in 2002, he had his work cut out for him. "The hospital was woefully behind the curve," the chief information officer recalls. "Users were hungry for IT, but the IT staff didn't have the experience and exposure to know what could be done." With a newly hired--and supportive--chief executive officer behind him, Ziolkowski promptly injected some new energy into the rural hospital, a 100-staffed-bed organization in Clinton, NC. First, he put in a decision-support application that could extract data from the hospital's core information system from MediTech. "It gave us financial data, productivity reports, and quality and clinical utilization data we had never looked at," he recalls.

That whetted the hospital's appetite for more clinical IT--and Ziolkowski has been on a roll ever since. Three years ago, Sampson implemented a suite of radiology products that streamlined both the capture and delivery of images. Serving as a beta partner for imaging vendor Agfa, the rural hospital implemented a picture-archiving and communications system over a six- to nine-month period. It was Agfa's first installation of the upgraded suite, which included a voice recognition component new to the market. Integrated with computed radiography scanners, the system has yielded a substantial financial return to the hospital, eliminating $350,000 in annual costs associated with film, transcription and staff. Ziolkowski declines to cite the cost of the project, only saying that "we received very, very steep discounts for the risk we took on."

The PACs project behind him, Ziolkowski is now embarking on another joint development project with Agfa that is far more ambitious: The Belgian company is using Sampson as a testing ground for Orbis, its all-purpose electronic medical record system with some 90 modules. The Agfa product, which would integrate data from every corner of the hospital, needs to be translated into English and adapted to the U.S. healthcare system. It's a major risk for Sampson to undertake, Ziolkowski concedes. Momentum may be an issue, as the effort will likely span several years. But if the EMR project plays out as well as the imaging effort, the hospital stands to have a sophisticated information system at its disposal at a nominal price tag.

1. Nursing documentation. The first leg of Ziolkowski's beta project marathon revolves around nursing documentation. The application will run on a wireless infrastructure that Sampson completed in 2007. Nurses will do all of their patient charting online, using small slate computers from Fujitsu. Nursing documentation under Sampson's current MediTech system is cumbersome, the CIO says.

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