Navajo hospital speeds data searches

The 52-bed Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, N.M.'named for an 1,800-foot-tall soaring rock formation'has created Web-ready data applications for hospitals run by the federal Indian Health Service.

The center'an IHS hospital within the Health and Human Services Department program serving American Indians and Alaskan natives'embarked on the effort to improve service, speed record search time and save money by what it called 'insourcing,' center CIO Tom Duran said.

It was more expedient to develop the Web-enabled system at the point of care than at the agency level, he said.

Duran and two other IHS employees last year began developing what they dubbed the E-Series Web applications. The E stands for excellence.

The first app, E-Verify, took 12 hours to build. 'We demonstrated it in 24 hours,' he said.

Duran used WebLink Developer from InterSystems Corp. of Cambridge, Mass., which comes with the Cache database software that the team was already using. E-Verify can check for insurance eligibility in 1.6 million IHS patient records.

The Shiprock team now can search the records with 'sub-second response time,' Duran said.

The center team also developed E-Post, which posts remittance data that IHS receives from insurance companies, and E-Code, which applies disease classification codes to health records.

Users'physicians, administrative workers, clinicians and nurses'access the E-Series via their Web browsers, Duran said.

Although Duran developed the E-Series specifically for the Shiprock center, 1,200 workers at IHS facilities throughout the country now use it.

The E-Series apps comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act's privacy requirements, Duran said. If a patient asks who has looked at his medical records, the apps can provide an audit trail of the users within seconds, he said.

The Shiprock center runs E-Series under Linux from Red Hat Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., on a quad-processor Dell PowerEdge Server with a 1T hard drive and 16G of RAM.

There are savings, but the information is anecdotal so far, Duran said. Many companies offer eligibility systems and charge 25 cents to 30 cents 'per look up,' he said. 'We've done half a million inquiries thus far, so just imagine what we're saving and will continue to save.'

The savings will let IHS spend more on clinical services, said Duran, who also works as a pharmacist at the center, specializing in seizure management medications.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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