Strategic partnership between HealthSouth and Oracle will make digital hospital come true by 2003

Birmingham 26 March 2001HealthSouth Corporation, a large provider of outpatient surgery, diagnostic imaging, and rehabilitative health care services, is joining with Oracle Corporation, a developer of e-business software, to build the world's first all-digital, automated hospital. The hospital's technological features will include patient beds with display screens connected to the Internet, digital imaging instead of traditional X-ray film, electronic medical records storage, and a wireless communications network that will permit doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, armed with lightweight portable computers, to securely update and access patients' medical records from anywhere in the hospital or around the world.

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Technological improvements have increased operating efficiencies and reduced costs in many industries. The benefits, however, have been less realised in health care because of incompatible computer systems, lack of integration among equipment manufacturers, and other obstacles. Oracle and HealthSouth expect to avoid these problems by bringing on board nine of the most respected medical equipment manufacturers to work with them in the design, construction, and integration of equipment that will be used in the new digital hospital.

"This will be the hospital model for the world", stated Richard M. Scrushy, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of HealthSouth. "By creating the first automated hospital, HealthSouth and Oracle are taking an idea that many have talked about and making it a reality. We will demonstrate how technology can lower health care costs, reduce human errors, and provide patients with the best medical care available."

Both parties are contributing large resources to the initiative. HealthSouth expects to spend $100 million to $125 million over 24 to 32 months for the construction and equipment of the hospital, which will be built near the HealthSouth 92-acre campus in suburban Birmingham, Alabama. A portion of that cost will be offset by previously planned expenditures, and the total cost is expected to be well within HealthSouth's existing capital expenditure budget. Pending receipt of the necessary construction and regulatory approvals, groundbreaking for the more than 500.000 square foot, 219-bed facility is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2002. Construction is expected to be completed by mid to late 2003.

"The Oracle E-Business Suite provides a foundation for fundamental improvement in the health care industry's administrative and business processes", stated Lawrence J. Ellison, chairman and CEO of Oracle Corporation. "By combining customer relationship management and resource planning applications into a single, integrated e-business system, the automated hospital will allow physicians and clinicians to focus on patient care and eliminate unnecessary paperwork and duplication of effort. Oracle will also be working with HealthSouth in the development of Oracle's new health care software, which will include core clinical applications as well as access and outreach systems."

HealthSouth is working closely with architects and construction firms to design the new automated hospital to be a model of operating efficiency. The most-used radiology services, for example, will be located near elevators. The hospital also will be designed so that it can be upgraded easily in the future, extending its useful life span. Automation will improve business processes such as record storage and retrieval, but the greatest benefits will accrue to patient care, according to Mr. Scrushy. Automation will reduce human errors such as providing incorrect medication to patients. It also will bring down time spent on such labour- and time-intensive tasks as admissions, thus giving health care professionals more time to spend with patients.

"Our automated hospital is not just about technology; it is about using the best technology available to provide the best medical care to patients. People deserve the highest level of care we can provide", Mr. Scrushy commented. Major manufacturers of hospital equipment, supplies and services, including beds, surgical instruments, laboratories, and pharmacies, have signed on to work with HealthSouth to make sure all of the technology is compatible and patient-friendly.

Other companies involved in the project include:

  • Carl Zeiss, an international technology expert in the fields of optics, precision engineering, and electronic visualisation;
  • Dade Behring, an international provider of quality diagnostic products and services;
  • Datascope, a diversified medical device company that manufactures and markets proprietary products for clinical health care markets in interventional cardiology and radiology, cardiovascular and vascular surgery, anaesthesiology, emergency medicine, and critical care;
  • General Electric Medical Systems, highly specialised in diagnostic imaging technology;
  • Hill-Rom, an international provider of health care products including beds, therapy surfaces, room furniture, modular wall systems, medical gas management systems, perinatal and neonatal products, staff and patient communication systems, stretchers, surgical columns, and lighting;
  • Pyxis, a provider of medication and supply dispensing systems;
  • Smith and Nephew, a manufacturer of medical devices principally in orthopaedics, endoscopy and wound management;
  • Steris, a developer, manufacturer, and supplier of infection prevention and contamination prevention, microbial reduction, and therapy support systems, products, services, and technologies; and,
  • Visualisation Technology, with expertise in electromagnetic image guided imagery, specialising in Ear/Nose/Throat, cranial, spine, and fluoro applications.

"All of the participants have agreed to work together to ensure full integration of equipment", according to Mr. Scrushy who added that this is a revolutionary development, and a major step toward overcoming the biggest obstacles in health care, such as communications gaps created by incompatible computer systems, the overdependency on paper systems for documentation, and inefficiencies in daily communications. HealthSouth provides outpatient surgery, diagnostic imaging, and rehabilitative health care services, with more than 2000 locations in all 50 states of the USA, as well as in the United Kingdom, Australia, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.


Leslie Versweyveld

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