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Hospital's broadband LAN poised for future.


McKenzie Willamette Hospital, Springfield, Ore, faced a triple whammy.

* It's nonprofit.

* It's on a limited budget.

* It's too small to justify most of the fancy LAN technology management wanted to use at first.

Stephen Clancy's solution: form a subsidiary company to buy excess capacity from the hospital and sell services to physicians, clinics, home health agencies, and other outside concerns. Clancy is president of Integrated Health Technologies, which works on a fee-for-service basis.

The heart of the IHT system is a two-year-old backbone that works as an electronic nurse's station.

Clancy disdains the old "factory" idea of health care.

"As a result of the industrial revolution," he says, "we took to handling patients as if they were on a conveyor."

At each step in the old process, Clancy says, the patient filled in forms, gave medical history, and provided insurance numbers. Almost all care was provided in a hospital or doctor's office.

For McKenzie Willamette, those days are past. Patients fill out forms once. Data follows them everywhere; medication, insurance information, and latest office visits are all on a database.

The hospital hubs a broadband network that provides the framework for an overall health information network.

Allen-Bradley LAN/PC, LAN/1, and broadband products join Hewlett-Packard 3000 Series 70s, a NEAX 2400 switch, and a Data General MB 15000 Model 8 in a network more powerful than a typical 114-bed hospital with a $50 million annual budget can typically justify. "We have the same needs as a 400-bed hospital," Clancy explains.

There is 100% redundancy built into the network.

In addition to a 50-kilvolt uninterruptable power source (UPS), hospital generators back up the network.

The computer room is case-hardened against transient microwave (a local problem).

Docs Like Resale

In 1987, Clancy started reselling phone service with four-digit dialing into the hospital. Physicians enjoy such features as single billing and a central service for all repairs. "We used that as our pricing strategy, just like the phone company used to do."

The network grew fast. Technology now monitors at-home-installed equipment such as as IV pumps (for pain killers) and cardiac monitors for the elderly.

Doctors can exchange CAT scans, magnetic resonance images, and treatment information from remote sites.

On the hospital campus, video is used for training and conferencing. Envisioning such capabilities moved Clancy away from baseband. "We have multiple platforms. Broadband allows remote users to link on a platform. They can log onto as many as four platforms in each session," he says.

There is a fiber backup.

Fiber originally was used in 1985 to save 40,000 feet of cable linking separate facilities at the hospital. "It was either buy line drivers for 60,000 feet of cable or go with fiber. We did an overlay on the fiber of the Allen-Bradley backbone. It is transparent to the user."

"We have 275,000 records on patients in the Eugene-Springfield area on our master patient index," says William Kittredge, IHT's vice president of marketing and sales.

The index has no diagnostic info but includes most other types of data.

"Doctors can access data on a 24-hour basis. It streamlines the process and eliminates stress," he says.

Billing And E-Mail

Both Clancy and Kittredge see the day coming when hospitals will have to offer such services to be able to do business with insurance providers and other vendors. American Express and Suisse Bank, among others, are positioning themselves as clearing houses for medical payments.

Both men see the financial end of hospital management as a banking function.

"We will keep local insurance carriers, of course. But the larger ones are going to process payments through a claims clearing house," Clancy predicts.

Billing is not the only service the IHT network can provide. Microcomputer file servers provide E-mail. A "practice office management system" does accounting for physicians. "It's astounding how much time docs spend on the phone," Kittredge says.

IHT also offers answering services, beepers, regular phones, HealthNET access, and cellular phone services. A PUC-regulated utility, IHT is the largest cellular rental service in Oregon.

IHC also provides on-line access to data on 14 million FDA-approved drugs.

The clinics and physicians it serves are spread out over 2000 square miles of largely rural countryside.

"We try to emulate the way a doctor works," Kittredge says. "We want to avoid procrustean technology."

Doctors can confer without spending time on the interstate. Via E-mail, pharmacy representatives can update product info and highlight new drugs without having to make and keep appointments.

Eventually, the Oregon Health Science network will be linked in for two-way video teleconferences to present papers and the like.

The broadband network acts as the switching service for all features.

For its services, IHT levies a general network access charge of $100 a month. That gives a doctor access to basic service. Currently, 35 off-site physicians and 30 to 35 more in the hospital are on line. Pharmacies are next.

The hospital gets a $2500 monthly check from IHT for dial tone.

"I've returned about 45% of the cost of the NEAX 2400 to years," Clancy figures.

Everybody wins.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:McKenzie Willamette Hospital
Author:Harler, Curt
Publication:Communications News
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Previous Article:Connectors improved.
Next Article:Getting NetWare ready to fly.

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