SUCCESS STORY: Ashland Memorial Medical Center/Hayward Area Memorial Hospital

Improving Patient Safety and Admission Processes

Memorial Medical Center (MMC) of Ashland and Hayward Area Memorial Hospital, are two facilities of Regional Enterprises, Inc. Memorial Medical Center is a 100-bed acute care hospital offering a wide range of medical/surgical services and emergency care. Hayward Hospital, a 50-bed facility some forty miles to the southwest, offers hospital and skilled nursing home facilities. Both locations serve counties in rural Wisconsin and Michigan. The healthcare organizations have turned to cutting-edge technology to ensure patient safety and quality of care. FormFast, Inc. is helping them achieve these goals.

According to Todd Reynolds, Ashland’s Director of Information Systems and Chief Information Officer, Ashland and Hayward wanted to improve their processes for patient safety.

Patti Patefield, R.N., Clinical Systems Analyst and former Director of Nursing at Hayward, adds, “We wanted to give our patients name bands as soon as they walked in the door. We also wanted to have their correct medical information immediately available.”

As it turned out, addressing these two crucial issues has yielded time and cost savings at both facilities.

“We wanted legible and easy-to-read forms. We wanted to save time printing admissions packets with all the data. We wanted our pharmacy, lab, HIS, and materials management data to all be usable. We wanted one system that could handle all these demands. FormFast was our answer.”

Both hospitals previously utilized a legacy-based HIS system and “blue cards” to identify patient records.

“We were spending lots of money on data cards,” Patefield says. “Adding to that, since we’re so remote, it was hard to get service on our machines. We were fixing our machines two or three times a year. Plus, it always seemed that we wasted a significant supply of cards while we were trying to figure out what the problem was. Those costs really add up. The cards cost more than a whole sheet of name bands.”

She also explains that stamping charts front and back with blue cards at a busy nurses’ station proved to be both time consuming and confusing.

“We went to a much more robust system with Affinity’s Quadramed,” explains Reynolds.

Other improvements followed. Ashland replaced its dot matrix printers and now has laser printers at all nurses’ stations and work-spaces.

Patefield adds, “Here at Hayward, we can afford the technology because we work with Ashland, and REI owns the software that we share. But it’s still a stretch …. and change is hard. However, the returns are already coming in.”

The FormFast software went live at both facilities in late Spring of 2002, and the results have been better than expected according to Reynolds.

“It works great,” he says. “In fact, I just came back from vacation, and one of the first things I did was call and ask for an update on how the FormFast system was working. No one had any complaints. We turn it on and forget it.”

FormFast has not only fulfilled the hospitals’ goals for legible, well-designed forms, but it also gives them the capability of placing a barcode on each sheet of the patient record.

“We use the barcodes for transcription,” explains Reynolds. “It allows us to electronically archive records and is helping us manage our documents. We wanted legible and easy-to-read forms. We wanted to save time  printing admissions packets with all the data. We wanted our pharmacy, lab, HIS, and materials management data to all be usable. We wanted one system that could handle all these demands. FormFast was our answer.”

“We wanted to be able to build a patient record and print it at whatever location was necessary. Also, by having this information pre-printed on the form, we’re saving time staff previously spent writing items by hand in a chart. FormFast did it,” Patefield explains.

Reynolds credits his hospital administration with having the vision to employ the Quadramed and FormFast solutions.

“We’re in a small, rural community, and we really feel that we’re part of the community we serve. Instead of playing catch-up, we’re staying ahead of the game. It’s great to see how our systems are helping improve processes for our patients—our neighbors—and it’s gratifying to see they notice the difference too.”

Ashland and Hayward prepared a return-on-investment study prior to implementing its automated systems. Although Reynolds and Patefield say it’s too early to report actual numbers, both are confident of the return they’re receiving with the new approach.

According to Reynolds, “We’ve already reduced our accounts receivables to 30 days with our new systems. We’re getting paid much more quickly.

“But it isn’t just Affinity, FormFast or Electronic Document Management alone, it’s all these things coming together so seamlessly to help us achieve greater efficiency.” Patefield adds, “We’ve already saved thousands of dollars in patient medication charges alone. It’s easy to show safety improvement and cost savings with this approach.”

In addition to the advantages of faster data retrieval and forms on demand, Reynolds points out another advantage to the FormFast approach.

“Real estate in a hospital is hard to come by, whether you’re talking about storage space or work space. Data cards take up a lot of room. By converting to FormFast, we gained counter space, as well as the area we previously had to dedicate to form storage.”

In regards to the transition to FormFast, Reynolds commented, “It’s a noticeable change. Our forms are cleaner, easier to read and more professional looking. It’s a safety issue and it’s a visual improvement. But best of all, we found the change was seamless with FormFast.”

Both Reynolds and Patefield enthusiastically support the improvements they’ve seen with Quadramed and FormFast.

Patefield reports, “We host site visits about once a month for people who are interested in the Quadramed system. It’s so easy to show safety improvements and cost savings with this system.”

Still, she says, some resistance is to be expected. “We had staff who didn’t want to learn how to use computers. If people are hesitant, I always remind them: let’s not forget what we’re here for or why we’re doing this. All of these systems are going to help us keep our patients safe. We’re on a quest for patient safety, and FormFast is absolutely part of our quest.”