The first hospital in Boise, Idaho, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center is now the region's leading trauma center with a network of hospitals, clinics, cardiac sites and a nephrology center. Its excellence and growth are the result of a long-time commitment to clinical technology. Since the turn of the century, when the hospital brought the first x-ray machines to Idaho, it has placed great emphasis on the technology of care.

Today, its technology vision extends beyond clinical technology to advanced information technology ­ such as Healthcare.com's EMerge, an enterprise-wide master person index (EMPI) solution. The hospital implemented this software, which embeds Vality Technology's INTEGRITY Real Time data matching engine, to identify patients at registration and to track and integrate patient (and provider and payer) information across the varied systems of the hospital and its partners.

Identifying Patients: The Key to Integration

Because healthcare information impacts lives, we need to provide the right information at the right time to the right person. While this sounds simple, we have a complex environment that includes hospitals, physician offices, clinics and insurance companies ­ all with separate systems and ways to identify patients. The ability to correctly identify patients is the key to information integration. The ability for each of us to serve these patients well depends on integrated identification. In addition, our partnerships are varied in nature, fluid and virtual, so our response needed to be virtual. The first step, therefore, was a master patient identification strategy.

The sponsorship for this solution came from the top in the form of a strategic imperative to provide a common virtual architecture for patient identification. The initiative, though led by IT, was a product of a strategic business planning process involving various parties. The community includes high-tech companies such as Hewlett Packard, Micron Technologies, Micronpc.com and others (many with representatives who serve on hospital board committees) and strategic focus groups. Sessions held with these groups and hospital members helped to generate the vision for the hospital's technology and its pioneering role in clinical and information technology.

Once the strategy was set, selecting the right vendor and product helped to eliminate risk. Saint Alphonsus had a relationship with Healthcare.com Corporation and used its interface engine product. It was important for us to choose a vendor that understood our complex environment and performed on time and within budget.

The Technology Solution

The technology was equally important. Healthcare.com's EMerge master person index solution incorporates healthcare process logic and enterprise application integration technology that allows diverse information systems to share data in real time. Vality's INTEGRITY Real Time data standardizing and matching capabilities, embedded in EMerge, can identify and track information on individuals throughout the network accurately and efficiently ­ based on probabilistic matching techniques that can accurately find even non-exact matching records.

The combined technologies enable Saint Alphonsus to identify a patient across a large delivery system in facilities it owns, manages and is affiliated with ­ in real time. When a patient registers, INTEGRITY first standardizes the data. Then, through EMerge's active integration of registration and practice management systems, it searches an enterprise-wide database. If there is no match, the software assigns a unique enterprise-wide identifier (ID). If INTEGRITY finds a match, it attaches the enterprise-wide ID already assigned to the individual to the new record. Based on this ID which crosses the heterogeneous systems in the network, the software then provides admitting clerks with the most up-to-date patient information.

In this way, the INTEGRITY technology streamlines registration, eliminating the need to rekey data and preventing data entry errors. It also avoids the creation of duplicate records and provides medical personnel with accurate, reliable information about the patient across heterogeneous systems, thereby improving the patient experience and ensuring the quality of care. It also can identify and integrate provider and payer information across the network for various business uses.

The strategy and implementation have been deemed a success as measured by the speed and efficiency of implementation and the achievement of the long-term goal of integration as indicated by the number of systems interfaced. To date, we have four sites, 500,000 patients and 46 systems interfaced. Advice to other leaders of business intelligence implementations is to gain broad organizational support for the architecture and the strategic direction the technology will bring.

Based on the investigation of records at the data value level and advanced probabilistic record-matching technology, Vality's INTEGRITY data quality software finds hidden data and standardizes, matches and repurposes data from diverse enterprise systems to create accurate, complete information on individual customers, suppliers, products, parts and locations and all their relationships for business applications.

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