BURLINGTON — Bolstered by a $130 million tax-exempt bond awarded by the state, Lahey Health plans to spend over $170 million on its hospital facilities, with a new $162 million electronic medical records system as the centerpiece.
MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development agency, issued the bond to Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in June.
Dr. Howard Grant, Lahey Health's chief executive officer, said the hospital also plans to purchase medical equipment for radiology, operating rooms, cancer services, information technology infrastructure, and telemetry monitors. While the total equipment cost has yet to be announced, Lahey will spend over $12 million to build a new cogeneration power plant at its Burlington medical center.
Grant said the new electronic medical records system would benefit both patients and staff. The system will allow patients to schedule appointments, review test results, and contact their doctors directly by e-mail.
"We're going to have one integrated tool which does the whole thing. So that the electronic record will be there, the results will be there, and billing, scheduling, registration will all part of the same system," said Grant.
Tim O'Connor, Lahey's chief financial officer, said over 250,000 patients will be able to access the system when it's completed in 30 months. O'Connor said the system will link over 2,000 doctors, nurses, and other caregivers across Eastern Massachusetts in real time.
"This system will allow us to better coordinate all of the care and be more efficient," he said.
The new records system will also have an economic impact, creating more than 100 information technology jobs in the region, according to Lahey Health.
Denis Conroy, president and chief executive officer of Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, said the new records system will be one of the benefits of the large network formed by the merger by Northeast Health System and Lahey last year. At present, not all doctors from the two North Shore hospitals can link directly to Lahey’s existing medical records system.
"One of the biggest challenges is for Doctor A to know what Doctor B did for the patient, and when you're in separate information systems it's very time-consuming to figure out what a doctor did for a patient," said Conroy. "Now, everyone will have access to the same information at virtually the same time."
Meanwhile, at the Burlington hospital, workers are building a 3-megawatt gas-driven power plant that will create enough electricity to power about half of the facility during a regular day. Larry Cardarelli, Lahey's director of facilities, said the 5,000-square-foot plant would be completed next year and save Lahey $750,000 annually in electrical costs. Cardarelli said the Burlington facility will be one of the only hospitals in the state to create its own electricity.
"It saves money, it's energy efficient, and therefore a necessary improvement," said Cardarelli. "It's one of the pieces of the puzzle we need in order to maintain the lowest economical cost of patient treatment. If we can have a facility that runs as efficiently as possible, it lowers the cost of patient treatment. Overhead is part of the cost of patient treatment."