High-Tech, High-Touch

July 1, 2005

In The Sprawling Surroundings of Oklahoma City sits a microcosm of what many stakeholders want for healthcare's future. The Oklahoma Heart Hospital, a 78-bed cardiac specialty hospital, offers the latest in high-tech medicine complemented by high-touch patient care.

In the sprawling surroundings of Oklahoma City sits a microcosm of what many stakeholders want for healthcare's future. The Oklahoma Heart Hospital (OK Heart), a 78-bed cardiac specialty hospital, offers the latest in high-tech medicine complemented by high-touch patient care.

Newly built in 2002, OK Heart is labeled as the country's first all-digital hospital with integrated computerized physician order entry (CPOE), electronic medical records (EMRs), digital imaging and online interface access from anywhere in the hospital or physician's office. Nothing is done on paper, which is the main requirement denoted by Dr. David Brailer, the National Health Information Technology Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for meeting the definition of a fully digital hospital. It's something public and commercial payers would like to see more of.

"Our goal was to set up a patient-centered, patient-friendly hospital and focus our energies on serving patients in a way that some of the older hospitals fail," says John Harvey,MD, co-president (pictured right, seated). He shares responsibility for OK Heart along with fellow co-president Jim Best, who represents Mercy (pictured right, standing), and OK Heart COO Peggy Tipton, RN (pictured right, far right).

"We saw digital technology as the future of medicine," Dr.Harvey says."It was going to be extra work and expense to set up OK Heart that way, but rather than build some legacy paper systems that would have to be converted in the next 10 years, we bit the bullet. The day we opened in August 2002, we were completely digital."

Oklahoma City is a hotbed of physician entrepreneurship. Seven new physician-owned limited-service hospitals have opened in the metro area since 1994. Oklahoma Cardiovascular Associates and Mercy Health Center had an interest in opening a heart hospital because both wanted to address the prevalence of cardiovascular disease in Oklahoma. Overall, the state has the second-highest cardiovascular death rate in the nation.

"We realized that our visions were very similar," Best says. "Because Mercy Health Center had the willingness and the corporate backing to be part of a partly physician-owned entity, the visions came together to create the Oklahoma Heart Hospital." With more than two years of operations under its belt now, the facility logs 7,850 acute care admissions and 1,200 open heart surgeries annually, and averages 600 heart catheterizations per month. Patient data and physician notes go straight into the electronic system from anywhere in the hospital, including the operating room and the bedside.

Nearly every room in the building has a system interface consisting only of a high-resolution flat screen capable of viewing clinical images, a mouse and a keyboard. The guts of the computer are stored away from clinical areas, which has a number of advantages including increased security, space savings, reduced contamination issues from blowing computer fans, and quick switch-overs in the event of a unit crash. Physicians can view the same patient records in real time from the hospital, from home or from their offices, which are headquartered in the OK Heart building.

COO Tipton says the center's 295 nurses appreciate its technology framework because it provides the efficiency and time savings needed to allow them to concentrate on patient care. For example, a medication order can be uploaded, filled and delivered to the patient in 10 minutes without a manual chart pull or a single piece of paper exchanging hands.