Technology cuts costs for RGH

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

By getting rid of some of the pictures, Roosevelt General Hospital is hoping for a better financial picture.

Staff members showed the hospital board the first stages of the hospital’s Picture Archiving Communication System, or PACS, at the conclusion of Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Rocky Houston, director of radiology at RGH, showed members one of five terminals where PACS is used. With the system, Houston said, tests such as x-rays and sonograms are recorded on a disc as digital files instead of on film. With that disc, Houston said, a doctor doesn’t have to wait until film develops, and can see the test results “before a patient is back in their room.”

Houston clicked through a sample test, and scrolled through the body in seconds to show what would have taken 250 film prints to examine in a similar fashion.

Hospital Administrator James D’Agostino said the system runs the hospital about $177,000, but he expects the savings on film means the project will pay for itself in about 17 months.

“We don’t have chemicals, we don’t have film, we don’t have a processor,” D’Agostino said.

Ideally, Houston said, the hospital would like to make the system Web-based, so a doctor could look at charts from his or her home computer or a doctor in another city could quickly get information on a patient transfer.

In other business:

• Board members tabled a proposed policy to outline employee rights and responsibilities if they sought a place on the hospital’s board.

Outgoing board member Darwin Chenault said he had a problem with the wording, because it said an employee cannot seek a board position.

“This is saying … you’re going to have to resign to run,” Chenault said.

Current board policy requires employees to quit should they be elected to office.

Board member Peggy Davis had to resign her position of more than five years at RGH to join the board, but she doesn’t think others should have to pick between the board and a job at the hospital.

• Members also tabled a policy dealing with nepotism. D’Agostino said while on a fact-finding mission about how other local boards handle political activity, he found nepotism was mentioned in every one.

The proposed policy said relatives of board members could not work at the hospital.

Current rules allow family members to work in the hospital, provided one is not supervising another. Davis said board members have no supervisory function, so she didn’t see the purpose of changing the rules.

“What if I did have a daughter who was an excellent nurse,” Davis said, “but we can’t hire her? Why limit (the hospital)?”

• David Shaw of Covenant Health Systems said the hospital will undergo an operational audit beginning Jan. 20.

The audit, expected to last about a month, will take a look at staffing patterns and vendor contracts. Shaw said the report will reflect what the hospital is doing right or wrong and if any cost-saving measures could be taken.

• D’Agostino said he plans to make a capital outlay request with the state Legislature for $227,000 for laproscopic equipment.