VALDOSTA -- Looking ahead to the future of medicine, South Georgia Medical Center intends to create a nearly paperless system for patient information in the hospital.

SGMC created a team to study the feasibility of the project, which was presented to the Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County Board on Wednesday.

The electronic medical record system would follow the patient through the entire hospital and would allow the instant analysis and sharing of medical information by all personnel involved in the patient's care.

"We are moving to one patient record with all pertinent information included," said Linda Kautzman, RN and one of the project leaders.

As the system will be implemented throughout the entire facility, Kautzman said the team is still gathering all of the data needed to make a final recommendation.

"It will take five years to bring up the first patient on this system," Kautzman said. "This won't happen overnight."

Randy Sauls, chief operating officer of SGMC, made a presentation to the board on the customer service initiative implemented in the hospital over the past three years.

Sauls said, "We are talking about the basics -- taking care of patients."

Over the past three years, quality of care surveys indicate that patients are satisfied with outpatient care more than 90 percent of the time, with inpatient care more than 85 percent of the time and with the emergency room services more than 80 percent of the time.

Sauls presented a list of positive news stories which appeared in the newspaper this year, including mentions on The Valdosta Daily Times' rant and rave line.

In other business, the Authority:

l Voted to approve the medical executive committee recommendations, presented by Dr. Roy Swindle, including the extension of privileges to a radiology group in Australia to read films during the night hours. Dr. Bill Gee emphasized that the reports are re-read by SGMC radiologists each morning;

l Voted to approve the finance committee recommendations, presented by Chief Financial Officer Greg Hembree, which included the purchase of $407,000 in medical equipment, already included in the capital budget;

l Heard a report by Hembree stating that the cardiac program continues to do well, and although there are fewer surgeries than anticipated, there are more angioplasties and stents than anticipated, with the volume of patients as projected;

l Voted to approve planning committee recommendations, presented by Chief Planning Officer Jack Edwards, on future services under review by the committee. Edwards also stated that the emergency room expansion is on hold for budgetary reasons, a proposed corporate reorganization will not be considered at this time, and a hospitalist program is under review by a committee led by Gee;

l Received Thanksgiving gift certificates from Chief Executive Officer James McGahee, which will also be presented to hospital employees;

l Discussed recent programs implemented by the hospital to assist guidance counselors and school personnel with the issue of teen suicide, in response to the two suicides by high school students in Lowndes County this year.

To contact Business Editor Kay Harris, call 244-3400, ext. 280.

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