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New tech center, facilities to improve disaster preparedness

Great advances have been made in medical information technology in recent years. And now Forrest General Hospital, whose current computer system is housed in a building constructed in the 1960s, will be building a new center called the 28th Avenue Technology Building that will be home to information services, electronic medical record support and human resources.

Bill Oliver, president of Forrest General, said the project will build on Forrest General Hospital’s efforts to improve upon the quality that the community has come to expect from the hospital.

“With this new facility, various departments will have the opportunity to more efficiently utilize the latest technology,” Oliver said.

Richard Golladay, director of information services at Forrest General, said the new computer room will be a room within a room. It will have no exterior walls to provide additional protection and security.

“We are excited about the new technology center,” Golladay said. “The new computer center is being designed as a computer center. That way we have the generators, the backup systems and fire suppression. One of the things we try to do with any computer system is when we purchase a technology or implement it, we design it in a way to make it a redundant system if the primary systems fail. We have a disaster plan in place that, if something should happen, we have a rapid way to get things back on line. That is really important in a 24/7 medical facility.”

The computer center is currently located at the Forrest General Medical Plaza Building that was built decades ago. Part of the current computer building was remodeled, and used to be part of a patio. The space was enclosed and support added for an electric generator and UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply).

“That way we are isolated from commercial power,” Golladay said. “If there are any blips, we can keep running.”

The new facility will also have accommodations to house staff 24 hours per day during a disaster situation. The eight employees who stayed at the current computer center during Hurricane Katrina to make sure that vital IT functions continued had to sleep on the floor.

“The current center was not designed to be a command center during a disaster,” Golladay said. “Even though we lost commercial power and water during Katrina, our medical records system stayed up and running. All of our computer systems continued to operate during the disaster. Patient care, you can’t stop it for a disaster. It has to be continuous and so do the support systems that go along with it.”

The system will support some of the newer technology being used at the hospital such as the voice recognition computer programs for the physicians to dictate their progress notes. The dictation is automatically transcribed into text that is later edited by a medical transcriber.

“That saves a lot of time with turnaround on transcriptions,” Golladay said. “There have been tremendous strides with voice recognition in recent years. We also leverage wireless technology so you can actually do patient care at the bedside without having a computer in every room. It cuts down on the possibility of transcription errors. For example, if a nurse writes down an order and has to go back and key it in later, it may be misinterpreted.”

Physicians and other staff have laptops that provide complete access to electronic records that they can access from anywhere in the hospital.

Another recent improvement is that within the past year Forrest General has installed a digital radiology system that allows physicians to look at digital x-rays, MRIs or CT scans from almost anywhere in the network.

“Before you had film, you had to put in a viewer and view it in an x-ray box,” Golladay said. “This allows physicians to look at tests in his office or wherever he can get access to one of our network computers. Multiple people can look at the same image at the same time, consulting over the phone and looking at the same information.”

Services that will be located in the new building include Forrest General’s departments of payroll, physician and public relations, purchasing, finance, corporate compliance, managed care, quality management, office of support services and FGH OnCall.

Agreements for the new building were signed in early January with construction to begin by the end of the month. Completion and full occupancy is slated for 2008. The cost of the project was not disclosed.

Other recent expansion projects include a newly renovated and expanded Mother Baby Unit scheduled to open in early March. In December 2006, Forrest General’s Women’s Services opened the doors to the new Family Birthplace entrance located on the fourth floor of the parking garage. Three new labor and delivery suites and two new labor and delivery operating rooms are scheduled to open March 1.

The entire fourth floor of the tower will be under renovation beginning March 1.

Forrest General is also taking steps to be more disaster proof in the future for events like Hurricane Katrina, which caused widespread damage and power outages in Hattiesburg. The hospital is planning a new water tower and power plant that will allow the hospital to never be without water and power. The tower and plant are currently under construction and will be located side-by-side at the corner of Adeline Street and the U.S. 49 service road.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

About Becky Gillette

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