Northwestern Memorial HealthCare CEO named to medicare technology commission

12/01/04

Group to develop a strategy and timeline for implementing standards-based healthcare information technology

Northwestern Memorial Hospital recently announced that Gary A. Mecklenburg, CEO of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, was appointed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to the Commission on Systemic Interoperability, a commission responsible for working with the public and private health sectors to develop a strategy and timeline for implementing health care information technology standards. These standards will serve as the foundation for establishing a system of universal health records.

"For the healthcare field to successfully move forward, we must standardize. We can no longer have unique practice patterns and IT solutions, hospital by hospital, community by community," said Gary Mecklenburg. "In order to provide a patient-centric healthcare system for the 21st century, we need to exchange critical healthcare information in a timely, predictive manner. I'm honored to be selected by the Commission to help develop standards that will force us to think more globally across the industry."

The Commission on Systemic Interoperability was established by Section 1012 of the Medicare Modernization Act. It has been charged by Congress with developing a strategic plan for the nation's healthcare information technology infrastructure. In the next year, the commission will create a comprehensive plan for adopting and implementing technology standards to make healthcare IT systems across the country work together. The plan, due to Congress by October 31, 2005, will establish a timeline and priorities for offering technology tools to improve healthcare safety, quality and efficiency.

"Mecklenburg's appointment to the Commission speaks to Northwestern Memorial Hospital's commitment to leading by example and making advanced information technologies a top priority," said Scott Wallace president and chief executive officer of The National Alliance for Health Information Technology and chairman of the Commission.

As part of the hospital's long-range financial plan from 2002-2010, an estimated $100 million has been planned for obtaining and implementing additional advanced information technology systems. In any given year, the amount toward IT investment equates to approximately one-third of the hospital's annual capital budget.

In the past two years, NMH has accomplished several major clinical systems initiatives, including nursing automation and documentation, which also includes the electronic medication administration record. To accomplish this, more than 1,200 high-speed computers were placed into patient rooms and more than 2,000 nurses received training on how to electronically capture patient information at the bedside. The hospital is currently training its physicians on the bedside electronic system.

Additionally, NMH is currently rolling out its computerized provider order-entry or CPOE system to clinicians in all practice areas. CPOE has been cited nationally by LeapFrog Group - a coalition of more than 150 public and private organizations that provide health care benefits - as technology that enables safe and effective care and is an important undertaking for the hospital that will have a significant impact on caregiver decision making as well as increase patient safety by reducing the possibility for medical errors.

The hospital's efforts have been recognized by many external organizations, including Hospitals & Health Networks, who for five years in a row, has named Northwestern Memorial to its annual "Most Wired" list the only Chicago hospital to receive this distinction. In the coming year, Northwestern Memorial will work toward achieving the The LeapFrog Group's standard for clinical information systems through the annual Patient Safety Survey, the only external standard for evaluating a hospital's adaptation of clinical systems. Currently the survey is voluntary and less than five percent of the nation's hospitals have completed it.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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