transition to electronic records
In 2005 St Mary’s and Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics purchased a software system to lay the foundation for an Electronic Health Records system. The Meditech system modules have been gradually phased in over the past four years. The modules have allowed SMHC and CVHC to create electronic lab reports, doctor transcriptions and orders, patient scheduling and digitized medical images such as ultrasounds and Xrays. All of which will serve as formats for a patient electronic health record.
“Now that the building blocks are in place we have been shopping for an EHR software package,” said Pam McBride, SMHC/CVHC grants coordinator and project manager for electronic medical records conversion. “We reviewed a lot of product information then narrowed our choice to the top three vendors. We invited those vendors to preview their products for our health care staff. Representatives from our medical and administrative staff then visited Lewiston’s Valley Medical Center, Sandpoint Family Medicine and other sites to see the different systems in action. We will make our final decision in the near future and begin testing and customizing to fit our needs shortly after the beginning of the year.”
According to McBride, SMHC and CVHC developed a number of criteria to help them select the best EHR package. Those criteria included ease of use for the health care providers to maximize their time with the patient; to improve the quality of the patient visit; to minimize duplication of tests and procedures and to help them manage their patients’ chronic conditions. EHRs also flag prescriptions that interact with other medications when inputted into the system, as well as, notifying the doctor when the patient has an allergy to a particular drug.
Various federal grants and hospital funds were used to purchase the Meditech system. Plans are to purchase the EHR system and request federal reimbursement for the majority of its cost. “We’re in a good position because recently the Department of Health and Human Services said hospitals and physician offices must have EHRs in place by 2015 or face reduced reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid payments,” said Casey Meza, CEO. “There are currently a lot of financial incentives available which we’ll access, but our goal from the beginning was to provide the best quality care to our patients and electronic health records will help us do that.”
Neither the Orofino nor the Cottonwood hospitals and their seven clinics will be scanning the old records into the electronic health records due to cost and time. However, important information will gradually be inputted electronically and all new patients will begin with an HER.
SMHC and CVHC are participating in a national pilot project to transition primary care medical clinics into patient centered medical homes. Advanced technology is a cornerstone of the project and both facilities were selected for participation partially due to their progress with implementing electronic health records and other technology initiatives.