Apprehension and excitement are building at Delta County Memorial Hospital, as close to 425 physicians, nurses, lab workers and admissions/billing employees prepare to convert to electronic medical records.
The move, explains acting administrator Jason Cleckler, affects pretty much every employee and every department at Delta County Memorial Hospital.
The process began about three years ago, when a team of hospital employees reviewed the information systems offered by a variety of vendors. They ultimately settled on Medical Information Technology, Inc., or Meditech.
"We'd been using a skeleton version of the Meditech system here but it wasn't utilized in all departments," Cleckler explained.
"This new system is an updated, full-service version that goes live at our hospital at midnight Oct. 1."
Although the Meditech system is primarily designed for use with hospital patients, it will interact with whatever technology is being employed by your physician's office.
"If you are here in the hospital and your primary care doctor has ordered some lab work, when the results are final our system will transmit the data to your primary care physician's system," Cleckler explained. "Your physician will also be able to log on to our system and view your progress from their office."
The communication between health care information systems will also facilitate prescription orders. With e-prescribing, the physician can send an order electronically to the pharmacy of your choice.
Improved operations, better coordination of care, and more efficient operations are touted as benefits of electronic medical records. But the biggest benefit, Cleckler says, is the prevention of medication errors.
"We believe this system will add a layer of safety for our patients through a feature called BMV, which stands for bedside medication verification."
When it's time for medication, the nurse will first scan the patient's wrist band, then scan the medication. "The computer tells us, yes, this is the right medication for the right patient, and it's the right time to give it," Clecker explains. "It will also check the medication against any of the patient's allergies, and double-check to make sure the dosage is appropriate."
There are lots of stories about people getting the wrong medicine in the hospital — this step prevents mix-ups and automatically documents the medication for the patient's history.
Nurses will carry portable devices from room to room to document the patient's vital signs and other treatment information. They'll also have computer access from their work stations, where they can trend vital signs and document the patient's history.
Despite the use of technology, Cleckler said everyone realizes the importance of focusing on the patient, not the computer.
"We still want that face-to-face interaction; the computer is just a tool."
Electronic medical record keeping is mandated in the health reform legislation, but Cleckler believes it's the right thing to do for DCMH. The mandate also applies to physician offices, and Cleckler estimates about 75 percent of the area's clinics have made the conversion. Financial incentives and penalties have been built into the mandate to encourage compliance by 2014.
The only drawback appears to be concern about patient confidentiality. Cleckler agrees privacy is a serious issue.
"All these medical records are required to be compliant with the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA," Cleckler said. The hospital has policies and procedures in place to protect patient information, and during the implementation phase a security analysis was conducted to prove nobody could hack into the system and gain sensitive information about a patient's health history. Even within the hospital, access is confined only to those who have a "need to know," explains Stephanie Conley, R.N., a member of the training team. She is excited to see the system go live, because she believes the continuum of care, from shift to shift, and from physician to nurse, will be faster and smoother than ever before.
"Some staff members fear there will be less contact with patients, but I actually think it will give us more time for patient care," said Jessica Bates, an emergency room nurse. "It's so simple and quick to enter the data electronically."blog comments powered by Disqus