All-digital Indiana hospital comes of age

December 23, 2002

One of the first paperless hospitals has opened on schedule in Indianapolis, featuring everything from electronic medical records to radiologists reading images over satellite links from home. The $60 million Heart Center of Indiana is being watched

One of the first paperless hospitals has opened on schedule in Indianapolis, featuring everything from electronic medical records to radiologists reading images over satellite links from home.

The $60 million Heart Center of Indiana is being watched closely by other hospitals around the world. Its physicians hope to increase efficiency and improve medical care through all-digital operations.

"Everyone is looking at us," said Dr. Joseph George, director of medical imaging. "There are about 200 hospitals waiting to see how well an all-digital hospital goes."

The center's computer system tracks physician orders, prescriptions, and patient meals to ensure more efficient patient care. Physicians can access the system to view patient records or live heart monitoring data on monitors located throughout the center or from their offices and homes. The system is intended to avoid the normal "Where's the chart?" environment of traditional paper-based hospitals.

Instead of paper charts lodged in doorway pouches, 220 personal computers are available in all 88 patient rooms and at workstations. They allow physicians and staff to call up a patient's record, add new information, or view nondiagnostic-quality images.

"We do a lot of noninvasive cardiac imaging, performing CT angiograms of the heart with the 16-slice CT, and we do cardiac MRI, including viability studies," George said. "We also do routine imaging as well."

George said the time between scanning and interpretation is much faster than in film environments.

"I read images within the hour, even from home," he said. "Our transcription services are outsourced and they talk to the RIS, too. I have electronic signature, electronic editing, and electronic signoff, all of which flows right to the patient's chart."

The Heart Center is a joint venture between Catholic-run Central Indiana Health System and the Care Group, a conglomerate of cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons.

Siemens has equipped the hospital with its digital medical equipment and IT systems and will manage the hospital's information systems for the next several years.