A new era for hospital center

Renovation: A project to expand and modernize the facility is set to enter its second phase.

April 25, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

As part of Carroll Hospital Center's evolution into a state-of-the-art medical facility, upgrades in technology mean that one day paperless documentation will be the norm.

This shift is aimed at eliminating vast storehouses of files, allowing simultaneous viewing of a patient's chart and more time for nurses to spend with patients.

The hospital's additions and renovations - its biggest ever - are in step with a name change from Carroll County General Hospital, though many county residents still refer to it by that name. But hospital officials hope that soon residents will associate the new name with the increased services being unveiled.

The renovation project is in its second year and will add more than 100,000 square feet to the hospital, for a total of 378,000 square feet. The first phase includes a new and larger emergency department, a four-story tower and a new front entrance.

The tower's debut in February signaled the homestretch of the first phase of the $80 million project, which broke ground in June 2002. Already completed are an emergency department, lobby, gift shop and front entrance in Westminster.

The new tower has been outfitted with new mobile computer stations, located throughout the one floor that is open to the public now.

Teresa Fletcher, the hospital's director of marketing and public relations, said the third and fourth floors of the tower - which are identical to the floor opened in February - will be operational this month. The first floor of the tower is part of the existing building.

The computer stations are part of a comprehensive shift toward paperless documentation, said Leslie Simmons, the hospital's senior vice president in charge of patient services and a registered nurse.

"We're about 40 or 50 percent paperless now, but in June, we'll be at 75 percent," Simmons said. Physician documentation and orders and paper generated by the imaging, radiology and lab departments will soon be all that remains in hard copy.

Chris Morrow, associate director of the Emergency Department, said that medical records are already scanned and stored in a digital format for easy access. Morrow said the expansion and improvements will allow the hospital to increase the number of patients it can serve.

Simmons said the upgrades - which have been in the works for three years - will cost $12 million, but she said there already has been a trend toward paperless medical records.

"We're all going down that line," Simmons said. "Many hospitals of our size are not as far along, while other smaller hospitals are more advanced than major universities."

When the hospital opened its doors 42 years ago, it had 50 beds and 125 employees. The hospital has undergone expansion in nearly every decade since opening.

Today, it has 200 beds and nearly 2,000 employees. The hospital annually treats about 50,000 patients in its emergency department and admits more than 13,000 patients.

With the continuing influx of patients come new rooms and equipment.

Using a wireless network made up of antennae built into the ceilings, nurses will be able to wheel the mobile computer stations into patients' rooms.

By June, nurses will be able to record chart information through the computer rather than paper, entering up-to-date data that physicians, pharmacists and other members of the hospital staff can access. Staff also will be able to look up lab results, read transcribed reports and place medication orders.

It's a move that will cut down on the time spent chasing after a paper chart, said Kimberly Moreau, the hospital's system application manager.

Each floor has about seven mobile stations, Simmons said, for a total of 45, after the tower's next two floors are open.

The new rooms were built to accommodate a patient wish-list of amenities, including privacy, space to accommodate a sleeper couch for visiting family members and a bathroom. Though the number of beds won't change, Fletcher said, the number of private rooms will double to 72.

When ground was broken in June 2002, the hospital launched Fulfilling the Promise, a campaign to raise $8 million in private money for the expansion. The hospital has received pledges for $7 million over the next three to five years and has already collected about $2 million. The project is also being funded through bonds and cash reserves.

The second phase of the project - which involves relocating such specialties as cardiac rehabilitation and the hospital sleep lab - is set to begin immediately after the completion of the first phase, Fletcher said.

During the second phase, the hospital will add specialized centers for wound care, diabetes and pulmonary rehabilitation, she said.

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