Sutter Health to Spend $1.2 Billion on Advanced Technologies to Support Clinicians, Improve Care
Systems to improve operations, reduce health care costs and increase safety reside in network’s "IT House"
SACRAMENTO, Calif., April 22, 2004—Sutter Health, a family of physicians and not-for-profit hospitals throughout Northern California, today announced plans to invest $1.2 billion over the next ten years in advanced information technology systems that will support its clinicians in administering care and help improve patient outcomes. This billion-dollar investment reaches above and beyond the $50 million the network already is spending to pioneer proven patient safety systems that can help save lives in its affiliated hospitals' intensive care units and that support the safe administration of more than 30 million drugs to inpatients across its not-for-profit network annually.
Sutter leaders and clinicians say the new investment will not only continue the organization's work toward advancing the quality of care for patients, but it will support caregivers by alleviating paperwork and enhancing information sharing.
"I'm proud to work for an organization that's investing in the advanced systems I need to reduce paperwork and put me back at my patients' bedsides," said Gina Cacuyog, R.N., charge nurse in the critical care unit at Sutter Solano Medical Center. "It gives me comfort to know that as these systems become available to the industry, Sutter Health is evaluating their effectiveness and, if appropriate, moving aggressively to make them available to caregivers like me."
"Our IT plan continues the progress we're making in implementing proven, secure systems to improve care in all of the communities we serve," said Christine Delucas, vice president of nursing at Sutter-affiliated Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame. "We've lead the way in implementing patient safety technologies, and now we're stepping up our long-time efforts to give nurses, technicians, physicians and other professionals the proven systems they need to support the critical work they do each and every day."
Specifically, today's investment plan calls for support in standardization of quality care and patient satisfaction practices; improvement in workplace efficiency; improved management of the patient population and its data, including the secure sharing of patient records with qualified personnel across Sutter Health-affiliated facilities; and adoption of new critical technologies to lead the industry in patient safety.
"In committing to this comprehensive plan, our goal was to stabilize our organization's IT funding to ensure long-term investments in technology upgrades that improve care," said Sutter Health President and CEO Van R. Johnson. "Patients rightfully expect advanced, quality care when they enter a hospital, care center or physician's office, and a strong foundation in information technology is vital to meeting or exceeding those expectations."
One example of Sutter's investment is systemwide implementation of picture archival communications systems or PACSÒ, which will cost more than $10 million in technology software and hardware purchases. (Sutter Health will spend an additional $300 million above the IT plan to purchase the complementary digital imaging equipment necessary to feed the system with images.) Currently up and running in Sutter Health-affiliated Novato Community Hospital and others, PACS replaces traditionally produced images with a computerized system of digital imaging, enabling physicians to more quickly and accurately diagnose a patient's medical condition. With a click of a mouse, a physician at a computer can, for instance, create 3-D images of a bone fracture, peer more closely into cancerous tissue and magnify images to more accurately assess a patient's medical needs. And physicians can instantaneously confer with colleagues on a patient's care without traveling to the hospital's radiology department.
In another example, Sutter Health experts have been using the inpatient electronic medical record (EMR) to view patients' test results, and order lab, radiology and other tests. Sutter expects to implement the inpatient EMR throughout its 26 affiliated hospitals in the next 6 years. It will cost more than $100 million to complete the EMR system for the network.
Sutter Health also is working to install the EPICÒ system in its affiliated physician care centers at the cost of about $50 million. The system would support the electronic transmission of over 2.5 million prescriptions per year to local pharmacies and it would increase the safe delivery of medications to patients by eliminating errors due to handwriting legibility issues. The EPIC system can also host software that allows patients to access their own secure medical records from home. This feature already is benefiting thousands of patients at Sutter-affiliated Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Sutter Medical Foundation, for example, by facilitating patient education and thereby enhancing patient-physician communications.
"Health care information technology is a dynamic field that can change almost daily," said Sutter Health Chief Information Officer John Hummel. "We owe it to our patients and the special people who care for our patients to continually research new IT systems and provide advancements that we know can improve clinical quality and/or better manage the information used in providing care."
This new investment is the next step in Sutter Health's comprehensive, long-time information technology plan that previously has allowed the organization to develop a solid IT infrastructure that can support the demands of intense patient-care and diagnostic systems.
Components of Sutter's "IT House" are its foundation or infrastructure (security, project management and cost-reduction systems); registration systems; clinician systems and repositories (e.g., electronic medical records); the enterprise master patient index or EMPI that allows for "patient centric" care; the Sutter Health electronic warehouse, which is used by its chief medical officers and the Sutter Health Institute for Research and Education to create positive change for disease management; and systems to support patient and physician connections (e.g., MyChart, which gives patients access to their own medical records).
Ahead of federal regulations such as HIPAA, Sutter also has been an early adopter of IT security systems that foster patient privacy. "We became the first health care organization to train a few of our network engineers as 'White Hat Hackers,'" said Hummel. "These professionals proactively hunt for any possible security vulnerabilities and prevent loss of data or unlawful access to secure patient information."
Long focused on the use of IT to improve care, Sutter Health has actively participated in business and leadership groups that study the future of technology in health care. It was a founding member of Health Technology Center (HealthTech), an independent nonprofit research organization that forecasts the impact of emerging technologies on health care, health plans and health delivery systems.
"Sutter Health has been a national leader in moving the health care industry toward quicker adoption of technologies that will improve operations, reduce health care costs and help save lives," said Dr. Molly Joel Coye, CEO of the Health Technology Center. Dr. Coye is a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and co-author of ground-breaking IOM reports on patient safety and the quality of healthcare.