In previous HealthBlog entries, I've told you about the growing trend of hospitals using commodity software to run the enterprise including electronic medical record systems based on Microsoft standard products. Most of these examples come from outside the United States where perhaps there's more emphasis on spending precious public funds wisely. Most recently I profiled Torrevieja Salud hospital in Spain as an example of this trend. You can read more about what they did by clicking here.
One of my colleagues sent information about a public hospital system in Switzerland that has taken a similar approach to implementing electronic patient records. The hospital system is Solothurner Spitäler AG, a consortium of canton Solothurn's six public hospitals that are located in different locations across the region and are now centrally managed.
The healthcare system had been relying on a rudimentary electronic patient record solution built with Filemaker. It had been developed by the hospital’s own enterprising doctors and programmers. After reaching a size of some 75,000 patient records, the homegrown solution was becoming unstable and programmers realized it wouldn't scale for the future. Working with a local IT consulting company, afca informatik, the hospital system settled on a centralized electronic patient record solution based on XML. It is accessed by web services and uses Microsoft Office InfoPath on the client side. The solution is called INFOPath-DOC.
Speaking about the solution, Dr. Pascal Walliser, CIO for Solothurner Spitäler AG said, “INFOpath-DOC gave us a new foundation for an electronic patient record solution based on Microsoft standard products. It is an effective, reliable tool that supports everyday administrative work in our hospitals. At the same time it has given us a platform to develop innovative solutions that will allow us to go even further in our efforts to deliver consistently patient-oriented medical services.”
As the world embraces open standards and the advantages of XML web services, could such solutions in hospitals and clinics become more common? When one considers the fiscal constraints of our healthcare institutions and their primary mission to deliver the highest quality of care at the lowest possible cost, it seems like a reasonable assumption. Why would you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on an IT system when much lower cost and frankly much more contemporary solutions can be built using commodity components? Food for thought!
Bill Crounse, MD Worldwide Health Director Microsoft Corporation