By Michael Howell
Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital has received what hospital staff sees as a very prestigious award from the Healthcare Information Management System Society (HIMSS) for the high degree of clinical automation that is incorporated into the patient care services the hospital delivers. HIMSS measures levels of service at hospitals worldwide and gauges their progress in levels from 0 to 7.
Brian Moreau, information system specialist for the hospital, who spearheaded the installation of the new electronic record system hospital wide, enthusiastically points out that only 234 hospitals in the world have achieved Stage 6 in the Electronic Medical Records adoption process. He said only about 50 have reached Stage 7, the final stage, worldwide.
“It places us in a very exclusive group,” said Moreau.
Moreau said that the federal government had instituted a “meaningful use” program using stimulus dollars as an incentive to get hospitals to convert to electronic medical records. He said, as a result of the achievement, MDMH will receive a check from the federal government in April for $2.3 million to go toward the cost of the conversion project. He said a vague estimate of the conversion cost would be about $4 million.
This cuts the hospital’s cost of installing the program dramatically. It also puts it ahead in the process that all hospitals are going to be required to institute by 2015 or face penalties.
Dr. Brian Kelleher, who works in the Emergency Room, is a big fan of the new system.
He explained that traditionally the hospital services were basically split into three different entities: the emergency physicians, the in-patient physicians, and the affiliated out-patient physicians, each keeping their own records.
“For a physician to compare and integrate a patient’s records could be a difficult and time consuming process,” he said. For example, an emergency room physician working after normal hours would not be able to get a patient’s clinical record in time to use it in his treatment.
Now, says Dr. Kelleher, given a name and address the emergency room physician can access a patient’s entire record including past medical history, any allergies, previous treatments, previous lab test results, and so on.
If the paramedics in an ambulance can get a name and address and the person is in the system a physician can immediately access the person’s medical records and use them to help increase the quality of the care they can give in on-line commands to the ambulance crew as well as when the patient arrives.
It can also help cut down on redundant treatments such as lab tests and x-rays when such things may have been recently done and are available for viewing electronically.
“This is not an evolutionary process,” said Dr. Kelleher, “it’s a revolutionary process.”
Dr. Kelleher said that doctors are notoriously resistant to changing the way they do things and there was a lot of anxiety at the beginning of the conversion process. But as the program got up and running the attitudes have changed, he said, as everyone recognized the real benefits institution-wide.