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Out one door and in through another it wasn’t unusual for a patient at Allied Services to provide the same vital information when moving between different divisions within the health care provider.

It annoyed not only the patient, but also John Regula, a vice president and chief information officer at Allied.

“Tomorrow they won’t have to do that,” Regula said last week at Allied’s executive offices.

The non-profit integrated health system plans to invest in a new electronic health records system to eliminate the annoyance, reduce errors and provide better outcomes for patients and caregivers.

It’s not an ailing system, but a fragmented one in need of a specialist to diagnose the problem and prescribe a treatment.

“There’s nothing that’s a coordinated effort through all divisions,” Regula said.

Allied will spend approximately $10 million in the long term and have the Cerner Millennium system in place within two years. It is the single largest technology investment in Allied’s history.

The Kansas City, Mo., company was chosen because it had the product offerings to handle Allied’s diversity from post-acute care rehabilitation hospitals to skilled nursing and assisted living centers to home health care. Each division has its own reporting and regulatory requirements and business processes, and the project will ensure there is continuity among them.

Tony DeSantis, assistant director of systems development, has been assigned the task of coordinating Cerner activities and has worked with the company previously at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

“We purchased a system that is flexible enough to be leveraged across all our different lines of business,” DeSantis said.
Because of the complexity and scope of the project, Cerner will use Allied as a model for prospective clients and bring them to Northeastern Pennsylvania.

DeSantis said it’s rare for even a larger hospital to have a comprehensive record system. “But we’re fortunate enough to be able to track our patients flow through one system in all divisions,” he said.

The project has many components including software, hardware and training of almost everyone in the Allied organization.
Allied is not alone in automating electronic health records, Regula said.

Acute care hospitals are also involved in projects. But they are doing so with federal funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Allied is not eligible for those funds, however, but must comply with federal mandates for electronic health records.
Still the effort will be worth it, Regula said.

The project will initially focus on the Allied’s home health care division.

“The end result for patients, our caregivers and the community at large, the referring doctors in the community, will be such that our patients will have a single experience coming into Allied,” Regula said.