Staff at Songklanagarind Hospital claimtheir new electronic system has improved patient experience
At Songklanagarind Hospital, always packed with patients, there is now no need for the sick to spend a lot of time in an overcrowded lounge waiting for a doctor. Thanks to an in-house database and processing system, Hospital Information Systems (HIS), a trip to the healthcare provider is less time-consuming for patients and more efficient for healthcare professionals.
Founded in 1982, Songklanagarind Hospital is part of Prince of Songkla University. It is one of the major hospitals providing healthcare services to patients in the southern part of the country. As a medical centre and medical school, it also serves as a research and development educational hub for the health science community. The hospital has 853 beds, is staffed by 700 full-time physicians and can serve up to 3,500 patients every day.
The hospital’s programme is an example of a concerted IT effort to improve quality and services based on local need.
Assoc Prof Theerasan Kiriratnikorm, deputy dean for medical informatics, Songklanagarind Hospital, explained that the strength of the new system, HIS, is that it was developed in-house, meaning every application is strictly based on users’ requirements, and any adjustment can be easily made.
“At the outpatients department, patients just inform the nurse about their visits, then they are immediately registered onto the programme,” he said. “In the treatment room, the doctor works on two computer displays: one is the HIS programme used for viewing patient medical records, and the other is for viewing medical files, such as MRI or X-ray.”
The doctor logs into the HIS programme, diagnoses, treats and prescribes — all of which is digitally recorded. If the patients are allergic to any medicine, the programme will promptly notify the doctor. Information regarding the patient, such as if they are a civil servant, have health insurance or social security, will also be displayed.
Once the doctor summarises the required medical treatment, he or she can electronically make the next appointment. The system also enables the patients to acknowledge its expense.
Other programmes developed in-house include an online medicine management system which facilitates direct prescription by the doctor, automatic medicine label printing, and a link-up to medicine stock management.
IT utilisation shortens the chain of service stations. Patients will receive medicine within 15 minutes of seeing the doctor. Importantly, prescription mistakes are reduced since staff refer to computer monitors, not the doctor’s handwriting, as is the practice in many hospitals in the province. Songklanagarind Hospital embraced the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) concept — all members in the team of medical staff are equipped with mobile devices, and the hospital makes sure that they are connected to the HIS portal.
“It is important we deploy an information technology solution that enables us to give consultations and treatments from anywhere at any time,” said Assoc Prof Theerasan.
Now, Songklanagarind Hospital is 99% paperless, with the exception of getting a patient’s signature.
At present, approximately 200 physicians access HIS from their devices at any time, from anywhere. As proof of the system’s resiliency, the HIS portal is performing seamlessly, even when traffic hits a peak of 120 concurrent users. The IT department’s service level agreement (SLA) is that users should be able to access data on-premise in under five seconds.
HIS was developed in 1995 and is based on an open source platform and Microsoft XP. With Microsoft ending support for Windows XP, the team decided not to upgrade the existing Windows software, but instead looked for a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution that would work with HIS. The hospital had already implemented VMware Virtualisation and was in need of a VMware-compatible solution that would enhance the hospital’s VDI vision and mission.
“The solution had to be simple, fast to implement, and easy to use because our users are not tech-savvy,” Assoc Prof Theerasan said. “They are physicians by practice. Their goal is simple: to be able to access patient data from their own devices from anywhere and at any time, and in a simple and easy way. They need to be able to access medical records from a remote site.” The hospital then found the Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform that enables virtualisation running on Windows XP-based HIS.
Komane Ruangrit, computer specialist at Songklanagarind, said that the hospital decided to develop its own software, to invest in server hardware and to lease other endpoint hardware, including desktop PCs, notebooks, peripherals and maintenance.
Its annual IT budget is not big, with 50% allocated to staff costs, the rest being the cost of leasing desktops and equipment.
The performance of the VDI server running on Nutanix has been even greater than expected. The hospital has on-premise Wi-Fi, which can now accommodate up to 500 concurrent users. As a medical centre and school, the physicians are also involved in R&D.
They are now able to complete their research tasks and reports from home, adding to the overall positive user experience and increasing their productivity.
The hospital now plans to expand the number of VDI users to cover all business functions. Without having to buy any additional appliances, the goal is to serve up to 1,500 users through its zero-client project. The approach is to let computers work remotely by using the resources on VDI, while all the functions run on the server. This will enable the computer system to run faster as the processing has been done on the server, not on the client.
The zero-client solution will also enable the hospital to achieve significant energy consumption savings because it only requires eight watts per machine, while the desktop PCs used 30-40 watts per machine.
“Green hospitals with superior services are our ultimate goal” noted Ruangrit.