EMRs and Beyond

By Wylie Wong Print this article Print

The health care industry continues to invest heavily in Information Technology in an effort to improve patient care and get a handle on rising medical costs.

EMRs and Beyond

Health care organizations are increasingly deploying EMRs as the federal government pushes for adoption, even offering monetary incentives to increase usage. In fact, EMR adoption is expected to grow from less than 25 percent in 2009 to more than 80 percent by 2016, according to an IDC Health Insights study released last November.

To receive the incentive funds from the federal government, however, health care groups must show “meaningful use”: In other words, they must demonstrate that they are improving the quality, safety and effectiveness of care. As a result, many hospitals and clinics are busy implementing EMR-related technologies, such as e-prescription software, electronic physician order-entry software and patient portals, all of which can help make the case for meaningful use.

Good Samaritan Hospital, in Vincennes, Ind., for example, is working to implement a new Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) system, which will allow the doctors to prescribe medicine and order blood and imaging tests electronically. It will both speed health care delivery and reduce the potential for errors.

The 232-bed hospital installed EMRs using McKesson’s Horizon software three years ago, providing physicians with real-time access to patient information at the hospital, at remote offices and even at home. In fact, with CPOE, physicians can do “virtual rounds” from home in the morning before they head to the hospital, says Good Samaritan CIO Charles Christian.

“They can have breakfast at 5:30 a.m., look online and see the latest labs,” Christian says. “They won’t have to worry about hunting down a nurse and ordering lab work over the phone—they can do it themselves remotely.”

Christian has spent the past year perfecting CPOE, removing items on the order list to avoid duplication and making sure the entire process is seamless for hospital staff. He is also incorporating clinical decision-support tools, which provide best practices for care. The system can alert doctors if a patient is allergic to a medication they are prescribing, he says. Evidence-based research can also provide physicians with information on the appropriate treatment for certain medical conditions.

“These are multimillion dollar investments that we are making, and they take a long time to implement,” says Christian. “We take a strategic view. It’s not just the technology itself, but the processes surrounding how it works and how to integrate the best possible experience.”

Beyond EMRs, Christian has aggressively invested in IT infrastructure and health care technology. He virtualized his servers three years ago and upgraded the hospital’s data center about two years ago. A wireless network has increased mobility and helped speed the flow of information and communications.

Today, physicians making their rounds can pull up patient EMRs on wireless laptops on carts. Wireless telemetry equipment, such as glucose monitoring devices, wirelessly input data into patient EMRs, so nurses don’t have to manually input data. Clinical nurse specialists and nurses in intermediate care carry wireless voice-over-IP phones, speeding up response times and improving patient safety.

“We’ve been pretty aggressive with technology—you might call us early adopters,” Christian says. “It’s all about servicing our customers and using technology to positively impact and provide high-quality care for our patients.”

This article was originally published on 2012-01-19
Wylie Wong is a freelance writer for Baseline magazine.
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