Build for the Future
Memorial Hospital at a Crossroads
Is the glass half empty or half full? Is a challenge an obstacle…or an opportunity? Psychologists would have us believe that it’s all a matter of perspective. However, for the professionals of Memorial Hospital in Fremont, Ohio, it’s a matter of careful assessment, research, and a clear-eyed focus on the future.
Valerie Egbert, Lead Programmer and Systems Analyst for Memorial Hospital explains, “Our hospital, like most others, relied on preprinted forms. But when the company that printed our forms told us that they were going to concentrate on larger accounts, we had to find another supplier.” However, instead of simply substituting one forms company for another; the leaders at this 186-bed hospital seized the opportunity to reassess whether they wanted to continue with expensive preprinted forms at all.
“We decided that we could use this change in vendors to move toward forms automation,” explains Egbert. “So we assembled an Implementation Team to research the topic and make recommendations.” The team was charged with identifying a system that would help increase patient safety, achieve greater staff efficiency, protect data integrity, and improve document management—while also saving significant dollars. What’s more, the hospital identified nearly two-dozen “essential” characteristics that its prospective solution must embody (see sidebar). And one last item: the forms automation vendor had to be absolutely compatible with the hospital’s McKesson system. Sound like an impossibly tall order? Not for Memorial’s Implementation Team. They met—or exceeded—all of these requirements with FormFast, Inc.
According to the list, the chosen system must:
- Be easy to use
- Make the job less taxing
- Justify itself in a year or less
- Possess low training requirements
- Offer enterprise-wide utilization
- Offer distributive printing capabilities
- Offer barcodes & graphics
- Eliminate blue cards
- Possess capabilities for checks, statements, and related documents
- Fit the hospital’s current environment
- Eliminate preprinted forms
- Possess the capability to do hundreds of forms
- Be capable of making labels on generic stock
- Offer a good McKesson user base
- Be reasonably priced
- Not be based on adding more hardware
- Be a non-cartridge based system
As Memorial Hospital’s selection process moved from investigation to implementation, the evaluation of vendors was painstaking. Adds Egbert, “We identified ten selection criteria that we agreed were important for our facility. These ranged from hardware requirements to training and support.” According to Egbert, Memorial Hospital also wanted a system that could accommodate features such as distributed printing and faxing, electronic signatures, the ability to scan and edit forms and to print blank forms. It was also important that the chosen vendor interface with the McKesson’s Paragon system. ”
By December, our system was installed and the first phase of our implementation was underway.” Phase One of the implementation targeted Memorial’s accounting needs. “We used a 5-part W2 form with carbons,” explains Egbert. “We went to a laser printed W2 in January of 2002. We followed with direct deposit vouchers, payroll checks and 1099 forms.” On-demand printing of checks in the Accounts Payable department soon followed.
Most of 2002 has been devoted to Phase Two of Memorial’s forms automation process. “We focused on our Registration services. We started with face sheets, then selected common chart forms that nursing divisions used. We printed those with the face sheets. Then, we added labels and arm bands,” she says. At the close of 2002, the hospital had also automated 4 common nursing chart forms, 4 ER forms, 9 mental health admission forms, and 10 cut sheet forms.
And Memorial’s upgrades didn’t stop there. “We brought distributed printing to our Social Services, Utilization Review and Mental Health services,” says Egbert. What’s more, the hospital then turned to the Internet to make information more accessible to its employees. “We also placed our Human resources policies plus numerous other clinical and administrative documents on line using the FastSite Web Based Document Library so employees could access our HR policies at home on their own PCs at a time and place that was more convenient to them,” she adds.
And the changes have paid off. Even with the hardware and software costs associated with adopting this new system, the cost savings exceeded $40,000 in the first year.
Although the changes were overwhelmingly positive, some special issues arose. “We had problems with our folder/sealer jamming. It was a hardware problem and had nothing to do with FormFast,” explains Egbert, “but people were focused on our new system, and any problems got a lot of attention.” In addition to hardware issues, Egbert says the new system has required staff education. For example, she says she has worked with departments that utilize the same form, but have different processes for how that form gets distributed. “If one department wants to make five copies of a form, but another department only uses three copies, we’ll try to get these two areas to reassess what they are doing in their processes, and we’ll try to come to some kind of compromise solution.” Once again, Egbert sees these challenges as opportunities. She adds that while FormFast saved her hospital time and money, the conversion process has inspired the careful re-evaluation of processes for communicating information contained on these forms. “We see this as a win for everyone,” she adds.
The Memorial success story has gotten attention outside the hospital as well. Egbert delivered a special presentation at the McKesson InSight meeting in October 2002 in Salt Lake City. Her presentation, “Why E Forms?” profiled her hospital’s successful experience with forms automation and offered a step-by-step overview of their approach. “I think it’s so important to share with other hospitals how we were able to save money by not buying preprinted forms,” says Egbert. She adds that in sharing Memorial’s experience, she hopes other hospitals will also take the steps for a successful transition to automated forms.
When asked what advice she has for facilities considering the move to forms automation, Egbert is quick to answer: “Focus. You have to pick an area—admissions or nursing for example—and focus on what they need to successfully make the transition to automate their forms.” According to Egbert, it’s an approach that must address the specific and immediate needs of the department and consider longrange issues as well. “You have to look beyond your immediate need,” she adds. “Think about issues such as graphics, barcodes, electronic signatures and media. You have to study how other areas are affected by the move to the electronic record.”
She adds that it’s important to pick a system, such as FormFast, that offers expansion capabilities. “Not only do you want a system that will give you important features—such as barcodes—when you’re ready to add them, but you also have to pick a software solution that will accommodate the inevitable upgrades that the hospital must make on its system,” she explains.
When Egbert shared the success story of Memorial Hospital at McKesson’s InSight meeting, she named her presentation, “Building for the Future.” It’s a title that captures what Memorial’s Implementation Team has accomplished. And it’s at the very core of FormFast’s process improvement solutions.