Blog Post: Back to the Future!

COWs in Health Care and other reasons why Howard County General Hospital: Johns Hopkins Medicne won the 2012 Technology Company of the Year

HCEDA Names Howard County General Hospital: Johns Hopkins Medicine, Technology Company of the Year

Howard County General Hospital (HCGH), built nearly 40 years ago on the old Bassler farm, has changed a great deal, but “cows” still roam the hallways.  Not the bovine variety, but the “Computers on Wheels” variety. Nearly 200 portable COWs are in use by nurses and clinicians to provide and document patient care. Hospital staff has a little fun with these high tech machines. COWs, while not in use, are “grazing” and COWS waiting for repair are labeled “put out to pasture.”

COWs are just one of many technological advances at HCGH that led the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) to name the hospital Technology Company of the Year.

HCEDA listed some other recent advances including:

  • Mobilab – A system that allows the hospital to scan and print labels for lab orders at the bedside, reducing errors to near zero.
  • A Provider Order Management System (POMS) which allows physicians to place orders electronically. (No more illegible handwritten notes by doctors!)
  • An Electronic Medication Administrative Records system (EMAR), a bedside medication tracker ensuring the 4 rights – right patient, right mediation, right dose at the right time.


Despite the recent technology boom, the hospital isn’t just quietly chewing its cud. HCGH continues its focus on patient care and safety and the hospital’s next frontier is Epic, the most prominent electronic medical record system for healthcare providers on the market today. The hospital is making a significant financial investment to completely convert its clinical systems to Epic – HCGH is one of the first hospitals in the Johns Hopkins Medicine system to implement the technology, expected to go-live in June 2013.

But, it’s not just about the technology – it’s really about the people, says Jim Young (left), Chief Financial Officer at HCGH.  “People are our most important resource. Even as we implement and adopt IT solutions, it is the people at Howard County General Hospital that I like most about my job.  You could have the greatest technology solutions in the world, but if you don’t have good people then the technology is nearly worthless.”

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MG42 June 25, 2012 at 04:29 PM
I realize that the HCEDA is just a marketing agency and in no way useful to the county, but it seems strange they would give a technology award to a consumer of technology like a hospital, rather than an innovator who builds and designs new and creative products. It reflects poorly on Howard County that the best tech going on here is a computer on wheels.
Mary Catherine Cochran June 25, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Ohai, Where would we be without our innovators?! We wouldn't have the tools- of which COWs is only one- to treat our patients better. Technology is all about innovation- but also implementation. So perhaps the hospital reflects the second half of that equation. I appreciate your insight, though!
MG42 June 25, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Thanks, I appreciate your attempt at writting.


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