Hospital Authority OKs $50 million e-record project

Stuart Taylor | The Valdosta Daily TimesHospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County Chairman Sam Allen and new authority member John Roan at the Wednesday meeting.

VALDOSTA — A $50 million electronic medical records system has been approved by the South Georgia Medical Center governing board. 

Epic Systems, a health-care software company, will provide the new system.

McKesson Corporation, the current provider, has notified SGMC it will stop supporting the existing system at the end of 2017.

“The (current) billing system is about 20 years old and should have been replaced some time ago,” said Raymond Snead, the hospital’s CEO, at the Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County meeting Wednesday.

The implementation period, including certifying, installing and training staff, is expected to take two years.

The $50 million cost will be split over five years, with roughly two-thirds of the payment due in the next two years.

Snead emphasized the importance of the project.

“We have an enormous job in front of us,” Snead said. “The necessity of making this right and not getting caught up in other programs is going to be absolutely vital.

A $7 million hybrid operating room, approved in April 2015, is moving forward.

Hybrid ORs combine surgical rooms with medical imaging equipment such as MRIs or CT scanners.

“This is one of the more significant changes to the capability of SGMC that’s occurred here in quite some time,” said Snead. “It’s a cross between a cardiac catheterization lab and an operating room.”

The hybrid OR will have a translucent operating table.

A C-Arm at the head of it will be capable of nearly 360 degree rotation, able to provide imaging of the patient without moving the patient.

“It will give us considerably more ability to perform complicated procedures,” Snead said.

General Electric has been selected as the equipment provider.

In light of the two projects, along with other ongoing SGMC projects such as the $11 million Lakeland Villa replacement project, Snead asked authority members to find time later this year to hold a board retreat to decide on the financing of the patient records project.

“It’s going to create as much demand for capital as South Georgia (Medical Center) has probably ever seen,” Snead said. “We’re in the process of updating our five-year financial plan to figure out how much we can fund this internally. We may be compelled to consider debt to finance.”

Snead also talked about ongoing deliberations concerning the future use of the Smith-Northview campus, but offered no concrete details.

“We’re considering alternatives of the appropriate use of that facility,” Snead said. “It’s never been our intention to shutter it. The importance of putting those beds back in service cannot be overstated.”

Executive Session

At the start of the 9:30 a.m. Wednesday meeting, the authority announced it had already been in executive session earlier in the morning before the meeting began to discuss “credentialing.”

The Georgia Open Meetings Act requires that governing bodies meet in an open, public meeting after proper notification before voting to go into executive session. 

The authority approved the temporary suspension of obligations of internal medicine and family medicine practitioners to treat unknown patients in the emergency room.

SGMC’s stroke program has won the Coverdell Hospital of the Year Award for the third consecutive year.

Authority members welcomed John Roan to the authority.

Appointed by the Lowndes County Commission, Roan is a practicing oral surgeon and has been an active member of the SGMC medical staff since 1981.

The authority also discussed plans to attend the Voluntary Hospitals of America Trustees Conference April 27-29 on Amelia Island.

Stuart Taylor is a reporter for the Valdosta Daily Times.

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