Multi-year analysis leads to forward-thinking decision to acquire Ncompass system.
Southwest Medical Center (SWMC) serves patients from Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. Since seeing its first patient in 1964, the not-for-profit hospital has grown and continued to expand its role of increasing importance in many communities as a provider of vital healthcare services.
The hospital’s attitude of excellence of its software systems, too. In order to continue to provide the community with the high standard of service they strive for, SWMC sought a new, enhanced approach to storing and communicating patient data.
Among the many challenges being increasingly faced by healthcare providers wishing to do the best for their patients, SWMC needed to overcome several challenges ranging from the issue of quick and secure access to a patient’s complete medical record, to avoiding surprise software charges through a controlled Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), to streamlining image access for physicians and specialists outside the hospital.
“One of our goals is to consolidate object files from key departments, including cardiology,” Shelley Buttry, IT Director at SWMC, explained.
According to Kelly Denton, Director of Imaging at SWMC, this consolidation is a key part of an effort to work with the hospital’s physicians and enhance patient care. “We see the growth in our facility, and so we’ve spent almost two years looking at this project and what we wanted to do, because we knew our PACS vendor was going to sunset the product,” said Denton. “We really wanted to look at a broad spectrum and see what we could do to make life easier for our physicians.”
These evolving needs prompted Denton and her team to seek out alternate software solutions-specifically an enterprise imaging system. This quest eventually led them to Novarad’s comprehensive Ncompass Enterprise Imaging® solution.
Denton first learned about enterprise imaging through reading industry materials on the subject. Due to its flexibility, scalability and high potential for customization, it was a decision that served their needs to budget now – and gave them a natural path for expansion.
“Simply because we get a lot of patients from other areas and we send patients to other areas, I thought it was a really good fit for us,” Denton said. I do think enterprise imaging is ideal for us because of our referral pattern.”
Denton says it’s important to pay attention to the care of a patient has already received, and that the capabilities of the enterprise imaging system enable SWMC to take advantage of the work that other medical facilities have done for patients.
“We take a patient’s treatment history into account, and we plan to the care we provide with this in mind,” continued Denton. “We very much want to take what referring hospitals have already done and use it to our advantage so our physicians can easily access that information and have a good continuum of care for the patient.”
No less important than the features and capabilities of a software is its cost. There is perhaps nothing more disconcerting than the moment a vendor unexpectedly increases fees to continue service-these are the charges that should have been mentioned upfront but are instead swept aside until you’re locked in.
Unfortunately, this has been a common practice in imaging software sales; what may seem like a lower cost upfront will later manifest as greater costs over time with software upgrades and capital expenses for hardware that has failed or is end-of-life. Buttry highlighted the importance of adhering to budget constraints.
“We must stay within budget allocations for each project. If we go over, the funding must be taken from another program,” Buttry said. “Decreasing insurance reimbursements put tremendous pressure on us to manage wisely.”
To avoid these painful budget issues, an extensive two-year search filled with research and visits from multiple vendors. When it came time to present the results of their research to the hospital’s Board of Directors, Denton took a care yet confident approach.
“When we presented to the board, I shared our recommendation, but I revealed the cost of the other companies, too”, Denton said. “The upfront cost wasn’t a huge difference, but when you looked at five years of ownership and ten years of ownership, there was a big difference. That’s something that the board looks at carefully, and they were appreciative that we took our time and had a complete package when we went there and were strong in our opinions on why we wanted to choose Novarad.”
Because of Novarad’s unique philosophy and straightforward pricing model, it was easy for Denton to show the board extended costs of the system. This true TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) approach is very unusual in an industry that is well-known for escalating vendor pricing. For example, the average cost-over-run for EHR implementations is 25 percent.
According to Denton, SWMC had narrowed it down to four companies at one point; they proceeded to invite the respective vendors to share their proposals, their systems, and their pricing models. This was followed closely by a thorough comparison of each vendor’s strengths and weaknesses.
“A lot of things are the same, but there are nuances that can make a company stand out, and I think that’s what gave Novarad the edge,” Denton said. “In the end, it was a tight competition.”
Although Denton cited several reasons for choosing Novarad’s Ncompass over its competitors, she said one of the most important reasons as the company itself.
“Novarad-the company-we felt they really wanted to be there for the customer,” Denton explained. “They offered 24/7 US-based support, ongoing education and the training for my staff so that we can work with the physicians. they were even willing to train the physicians, but the focus was really to make sure we have good superusers here that can handle any issues.”
Denton also cited Novarad’s unique Evergreen Software Philosophy as a reason for choosing the specialized imaging company’s product over competitors.
“Part of Novarad’s philosophy when they put in a system, is to make sure that your servers stay current, that you don’t become obsolete. that’s built into the service contract, where they’re always upgrading the system,” Denton said. “It’s not a cost; it’s in your overall agreement. Any time they update and improve the product, that rolls out to the customer. And as time goes by and equipment changes – and we know how computers change – then they come in and they refresh our servers, so we have even greater reliability and compatibility.”
As Buttry explained, another key aspect of the Novarad decision was the customizable implementation the company offered.
“Novarad’s implementation program has been very flexible,” Buttry said. “We have many projects all competing for limited staff time, and we often need to shift project priorities.”
When your facility is responsible for serving the public from five different states, occasionally patients will require specialty services that Southwest Medical Center must refer to another facility.
“Now, with Novarad’s Ncompass, it’s as easy as sending a secure e-mail,” said Denton. “Our other system was not Web-based, so anyone wanting to see images would need to download a client and use our passwords. With Novarad’s web-based platform, care containment for those patients who do go out of town to see specialty doctors is much easier.”
In making the move from PACS to enterprise imaging, Denton says the improvements at SWMC are only just beginning. The new imaging system will enable the hospital to achieve many of its goals, and has already begun bringing not only imaging but the entire hospital together on one system.
These technological advancements will enable SWMC’s high standard of quality patient care to continue to improve as the hospital grows and flourishes. And, according to Denton, it’s where the industry is headed.
“I think Enterprise Imaging is the future and I think that’s where we’re going in imaging, wound care, and all of the ‘ologies.”