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Hospital demands trial, training before buying system.

It's become almost a reflex to point accusing fingers at high technology when the issue of rising health costs comes up. Despite the benefits to our well-being and average lifespan provided by CAT scans, artificial organs and gene mapping, their price tag is often the primary target of industry critics.

It's encouraging the, when any technology application can be shown to save money while improving hospital services. This is precisely what Desert Hospital, in Palm Spring, Calif., hoped to accomplish when they planned their fax network.

Serving the entire Coachella Valley region of California, the 350-bed Desert Hospital is a full-service healthcare institution. From neo-natal intensive care and pediatrics to cardiac surgery and a complete trauma center, it provides residents with virtually any healthcare need.

"We saw a clearly defined need for enhanced communications between the hospital and individual offices of doctors on our medical staff," says Kay Hazen, vice president of ambulatory services for the hospital.

"At the same time, we saw several possibilities for addressing that need. Actually, we could have rushed headlong into spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish a dedicated computer network throughout the valley. But we were committed to solving the problem without falling into the trap of simply throwing money at it."

With that philosophy in mind, administrators set out to find a solution. They arrived at the conclusion that facsimile might hold the answer.

What followed were extensive meetings, regarding requirements, applications, and recommendations, with the many hospital departments that would use the system. With this data, three potential vendors were selected to demonstrate equipment and submit proposals.

"Everything looked great on paper," Hazen remembers, "But before commiting any money to the project, we wanted to see if it looked as good in practice. That meant convincing the vendor's we'd been talking with a provide us with thousands of dollars worth of equipment at no charge for at least a 30-day trial period."

Vendor Burtronics Business Systems gave the hospital five fax terminals for use on hospital premises as well as 10 additional units to be installed at the offices of physicians who had agreed to participate in the trial program.

Testing began in January and continued into the following month.

On March 2, Desert Hospital reached an agreement for 50 fax terminals to be installed over the next several months.

Departments ranging from radiology and medical records to the clinical lab and admissions have fax. These are used to get lab results to doctors quickly for diagnosis and treatment, to transfer documents and to expedite patients through the various processing steps required by any hospital system.

Machines used include the Nefax 63, 80 and 400. 300s have been installed at 30 individual physicians' offices throughout the Coachella Valley region.

Several operating modes ensure that communication with other models in the network takes place at the fastest possible speed.

"The response from doctors has been excellent," Hazen says, "and still more have expressed interest in being part of the network. NEC and Burtronics did an excellent job of training both the hospital and physicians' staff members, and that certainly contributed a great deal to the ultimate success of the program."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Desert Hospital; Burtronics Business Systems; Electronic Messaging
Publication:Communications News
Date:Dec 1, 1991
Words:529
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