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Moving into the digital age

Monday, July 24, 2006

(Photo)
MDMC's Cindy Shands, cardiology manager; Anthony Coppage, network administrator; and Gary Gaines, director of information services, look over the hospital's new MUSE EKG system (Photo by Scott Welton
New system will be used to digitally archive EKGs

SIKESTON -- With the implementation of the MUSE system and other technology, Missouri Delta Medical Center is stepping into the digital age.

Using money raised by the Missouri Delta Medical Center Benefit Ball, the Missouri Delta Medical Center Foundation has purchased and put into place a computerized MUSE EKG recording system for $138,000.

MDMC staff started setting up the system beginning in April, according to Cindy Shands, cardiology manager for MDMC.

"It was up and running June 20," she said. "I think everybody is getting excited about it."

MUSE is an digital archiving system for EKGs, explained Gary Gaines, director of information services for MDMC.

Anthony Coppage, MDMC's network administrator, said the MUSE system's speed and efficiency will be a big improvement over the old EKG archiving system.

"Up till now, we've always had to keep paper EKGs," Shands said.

Dr. Ali Khan, cardiologist at MDMC, explained physicians must have old EKGs to compare with new ones when making decisions about treating patients who come in with heart problems.

"That's the main focus for this: electronic archiving," he said. "I think it will be a big, big plus for the hospital."

With a few keystrokes, physicians and staff can now bring up old EKGs to enable them to make comparisons with the new ones within minutes instead of waiting 30 minutes to an hour for the records department to find the patient's previous EKGs, Khan said.

And the paper records are not always reliable.

"Maybe the old EKG got damaged, got lost," Khan said.

When making decisions about treatment for heart patients, time is critical. MUSE will enable physicians to drastically cut down on the time it takes to get the patient the correct therapy, Khan said.

He predicted the time between the patient's arrival and when they begin to receive treatment "should be less than 30 minutes."

"I think the maximum benefit will be in the emergency room," Khan said, as having old EKG information readily available enables "immediate decisions by the ER physician."

The MUSE system not only eliminates the need for paper EKGs, "it will allow physicians direct access to EKG information," Gaines said.

Khan agreed the connectivity feature will be very useful for physicians and other referral sources.

"All the relevant data is sent to your office," he said. "When you need an EKG, it goes directly to the referring physician's office."

"I think it's a good system," Khan said. "I think it will cut down on medical errors."

Khan said he is looking forward to MUSE being linked up with the hospital's identification and verification system which uses bar codes on patient bracelets.

"That bar code will prevent medical errors, too," he said. "That's something we are looking to add."

As many medical errors are due to handwriting, Khan said he is looking forward to seeing all medical records go electronic.

Shands said MUSE also helps with patient privacy issues as there won't paper EKGs laying around to be viewed by unauthorized people.

Gaines said additional purchases by the hospital included an interface with the hospital's system.

"It allows the patient information to interface and flow into the MUSE system," he explained.

"It allows both to communicate at the same level," Coppage said.

"There are a lot of different areas going on," Coppage added. "You're finding more things moving toward digital now."

In addition to the MUSE system, the hospital recently put in a terminal server and as well as a Holter Monitoring System for cardiology that has been up and running since last week, according to Shands.

Coppage said that with the terminal server, EKG information from MUSE will be "readily available throughout the hospital" at work stations connected to the terminal server.

The terminal server is also used with other software used in the hospital, according to Coppage. "The terminal server is for the hospital as a whole," he said.

The Holter Monitoring System consists of a device worn by the outpatients that continuously monitors heart rhythms.

"They're going to wear it at home -- they're going to wear it several days," Shands said.

"It's sort of a portable EKG," Gaines said.

"We've had a really favorable response from patients," Shands said. While heart monitoring systems have been used before, "now it's really small," she said. "They're really happy about that."