Altru Health System getting new $28 million IT system
By: James R. Johnson, Grand Forks (ND) Herald
Easier-to-read bills and better online access for patients are two improvements officials at Altru Health System said they’re anticipating from a new, $28 million information system that will start Feb. 9.
Once the system is in place, Altru patients will receive one consolidated, monthly bill that itemizes services and indicates the amount owed.
“If you come to the clinic and require hospital care, we’re combining those two systems into one,” Dwight Thompson, Altru chief financial officer, said. “The people in our business office are looking forward to this as much as our patients are.”
Altru patients will receive phone calls before appointments to verify personal and insurance information.
Also, in spring, patients will be able to make appointments, refill prescriptions and pay bills online through a system called MyHealth.
As with many facilities nationwide, Altru has been looking for ways to cut costs, while still modernizing electronic medical records, as well as improve connections between hospitals and clinics, officials said.
Thompson said the $28 million is being paid from operations from 2008 through 2011.
“We’ve had it in our capital budget starting back in 2008,” Thompson said. “Most of it will be paid by the end of this year.”
No job cuts
Thompson said Altru does not anticipate cutting jobs, but he said the changeover to the new system will “touch pretty much every employee” from 200 physicians and 3,800 staff.
“We’ve had about 800 training sessions scheduled in the first couple months of 2010,” Thompson said. “It’ll take a little bit of time to get used to, so we’re asking people to be patient.”
The software comes from the Wisconsin company Epic and is used by more than 175 health care systems and 150,000 physicians with more than 76 million patients, said Sarah Kotelnicki, Altru Corporate Development, in a press release.
Evanston Northwestern Hospital in suburban Chicago reported significant reductions in medication errors and infections from at-risk patients because of Epic’s improvements to record keeping, according to an article in “Health Care’s Most Wired.” The hospital, which has twice the staff as Altru, invested $42 million in Epic and has reported $17 million per year in savings, the article said.
Epic will be implemented across all Altru departments and regional clinics by November.
For more information, there is a public open house from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at Altru Clinic–Main.