THE PROJECT: Link 24 hospitals in rural Louisiana,
USA through an electronic healthcare management
THE BUDGET: US$26 million
THE PROJECT PLAYERS: Louisiana Rural
Health Information Exchange, Louisiana Rural Hospital
Coalition Inc. and Louisiana State University Health
AN AILING SYSTEM
When Hurricane Katrina shut down hospitals across
southeast Louisiana, doctors knew they needed a better
way to access patient records and improve care in the
state’s rural areas.
Looking for a cure, the Louisiana Rural Health
Information Exchange launched a project to integrate
medical records across 24 hospitals into a single system
and establish a statewide telemedicine operation.
In late 2006, the group’s CEO Don Hines, MD, secured
financial support for the project from the state legislature.
The team planned to link 14 hospitals during the first
two years of the project and then bring in the remaining
ones the following year.
beginning. “It was like trying to change a tire while the
car is still moving,” he says, laughing.
Many of these patients are retired or disabled.
They have no transportation and may be 200
miles (322 kilometers) from the nearest specialist.
Being able to get the treatment they need at their
local hospital is a huge benefit. That’s been a great
success story of this project.
—Don Hines, MD, Louisiana Rural Health Information Exchange,
Bunkie, Louisiana, USA
With the project’s first set of hospitals in place, the team
realized each one depended on different software for its
record-keeping. Although the team initially tried to work
with existing systems to save money, it eventually
integrated them into a single interface—a US$5 million
shift that wasn’t part of the original budget.
It seemed a dire prognosis at first, but the team cut
some ancillary elements and used money set aside for
maintenance to finance the integration.
“We had to spread the costs out over a couple of
years, but we did it,” Dr. Hines says.
CALL THE DOCTOR
The doctor “visits” are facilitated by a nurse on the
patient’s side of the screen, who can work heart
monitors, cameras or other equipment.
CURING THE SKEPTICS
Change can be a tough pill to swallow, so Dr. Hines
used the technology to conduct training sessions—in the
process demonstrating how easy it was to manage.
But he was still met with strong skepticism at the
The state’s struggling economy put the plan to integrate the remaining 10 hospitals on hold until new
funding is obtained. But the team did manage to secure
US$2 million to keep the current system operational
and continue training efforts.
“The fact that we got US$2 million in the midst of a
severe budget crisis shows how much the state values
this system,” says Dr. Hines.