When change brings opportunity: How Merge’s cardiology solutions helped Edward-Elmhurst Health provide high-quality, consistent care

The 2013 merger between Edward Hospital & Health Services and Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare created one of the largest health systems in Illinois. As is often the case with this type of amalgamation, executives of the newly named Edward-Elmhurst Health faced numerous integration challenges and had to determine the best way to maximize each organization’s strengths. Thankfully, one thing that required little effort was deciding on a cardiology system.

Before the merger, both hospitals used Merge’s cardiology solutions, Merge Cardio™ and Merge Hemo™, for a single web-based view of each patient’s complete record. The decision to continue using these products was an easy one, says Jeff Hanson, manager of imaging informatics at Edward-Elmhurst Health, since users at both locations are delighted with their performance.

“Our employees don’t complain about issues with Merge’s solutions,” Hanson says. “Things work, and they work well.”

Before Hanson joined Edward Hospital & Health Services in September 2012, he worked as a PACS administrator for a hospital that used another vendor for its cardiology solutions. When he transitioned to Edward, Merge’s cardiology solutions were new to him, but he quickly came to appreciate their comprehensive features.

Currently, Hanson oversees a team of six analysts who support all of the health system’s applications within cardiology, radiology and Edward-Elmhurst Health’s three cancer centers. They are all impressed with Merge’s extensive capabilities.

“I’ve had other applications where we hear, ‘We must replace this’ or ‘This is not a good solution,’” Hanson says. “I just don’t hear that here. Merge Cardio and Merge Hemo have just been great.”

Using Merge for every exam

The cardiac cath lab technicians use the Merge Hemo system for every inventory case and to chart and monitor patients. With Merge Hemo, Edward-Elmhurst can use a single server for multiple facilities and departments, and automate their cath lab process into a digital patient record. Among the many valuable features are an easy-to-use touch screen interface, templates that automatically populate known data fields, and the ability to experience real-time patient monitoring.

The data from Merge Hemo gets transferred to Merge Cardio, where cardiologists complete their final report for exams. With Merge Cardio, they can access and manage their patients’ digital records from a centralized, web-based system, which saves time and leads to more accurate, complete and faster results. Merge Cardio also integrates patient information from different sources and allows cardiologists to generate a report that can be distributed in a single session.

Today, Edward-Elmhurst Health does approximately 33,000 cardiology studies per year - 22,000 examinations at the Edward campus and 11,000 at the Elmhurst campus. They use Merge Hemo and Merge Cardio for every study.

“They integrate very well together,” Hanson says. “Data flows very nicely from the hemodynamics system to the cardiology system. The continuous improvements that we’ve seen in Merge Hemo over the years have been nice, too. It’s a very easy system to use, very user-friendly. We haven’t had a reason to look elsewhere, and we haven’t wanted to. We’re very satisfied.”

Expanding solutions across the enterprise

Soon after Elmhurst and Edward merged, Elmhurst began using Merge Healthcare’s zero-download diagnostic viewer, iConnect® Access, which Edward already employed. With iConnect Access, physicians can access all of a patient’s images within the electronic medical record (EMR) workflow without downloading any software. They can also view the images on any browser-based device.

Both hospitals recently upgraded their iConnect Access systems as well, which Hanson says has made a good situation even better. He notes that the upgrade included significant improvements, particularly when it comes to echocardiograms, and features better controls for video clips and faster speeds when downloading cases.

“Being able to view the images within the EMR and launching to iConnect Access with Merge Cardio has had a huge impact for us,” Hanson says. “It really helped our organization. We saw benefits on both sides. For example, with Edward already using the solution, their staff was able to share best practices with the Elmhurst team to make the transition seamless.”

Strong support

Hanson says he and his team have also been impressed with the support that Merge provides, especially the speed of service and the knowledge of Merge’s representatives.

“Whenever we need something integrated or have a problem to solve, I can always go to Merge and talk about the possible solutions they have,” Hanson says. “With other vendors, somebody answers the phone and they have to put a ticket in where somebody’s going to call you back after a certain amount of time. What I love about Merge’s support is that the person I call is jumping onto the system and seeing if they can fix the issue right away. That’s fantastic for us.”

Edward-Elmhurst Health employees know they can trust Merge to help them in any way possible, Hanson adds, creating a strong vendor relationship.

“They’re very open to discuss possible solutions,” he says. “Even if they don’t have the answer right away, they still help. We look at Merge more as a partner than as a vendor.”