Local health records join state network
July 15, 2011
When a patient goes the doctor, chances are doctor notations and prescriptions are added to the patient’s medical records in digital form and stored electronically.
Now with the latest advancements in medical record technology in Colorado, records may be attached to a secure exchange network to allow physicians from across the state to be linked to real-time patient health information.
At the Middle Park Medical Center in Kremmling (the new name of the “Kremmling Memorial” hospital and clinic), electronic record-keeping “in some form or another” has been in place on the financial management side for about a decade, and full medical record-keeping at the clinic for about three years, according to CFO Cole White.
But the district’s hospital in Kremmling has not yet practiced electronic record-keeping, and so work is under way to integrate systems in all facilities as the district builds its newest medical center in Granby. The district has selected Healthland as its healthcare information system and has begun the first phase of implementation with expectations to go live with the system by the end of the year.
The Middle Park Medical system would then be able to connect to the “central hub” of health information exchanges in Colorado, the state’s designated Colorado Regional Health Information Organization.
“We would be one spoke on that wheel,” White said.
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At Centura Health’s Granby Medical Center in Granby, electronic health records were implemented throughout parent company Centura Health’s operations starting in 2007, according to Centura spokesperson Wendi Dammann. In an announcement released on June 20, Centura has signed an agreement to connect its electronic health record system to the same regional health information network.
The agreement includes 12 of Centura’s acute care hospitals, including St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood.
“We are doing it because it is the right thing to do for all Coloradans,” Dammann said.
This “hub,” or the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization, will make available to hospitals, physicians and other health care providers across the state records such as patient demographics, progress notes, medical history and laboratory data. Later this year, the network is scheduled to be upgraded to include patient medication lists, allergies and immunizations as well as lab and imaging orders.
“A secure electronic health information exchange allows patients and physicians to make sure that patient health information is available when and where it is needed,” Dammann said.
The nonprofit Colorado Regional Health Information Organization is supported by grants and federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
The nationwide prescription to improve medical record-keeping in a “meaningful” way is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. When hospitals and clinics show real efforts to improve electronic record-keeping in a way that improves health care services, the federal government helps pay for implementation.
This could mean as much as $250,000 to the Middle Park Medical Center to help offset the cost of integrating its system, White said.
Keeping electronic records is deemed a way to reduce costs in the medical industry because of its ability to share important information among physicians, help prevent duplications of services, enhance care and allow cross-checking of prescribed drugs.
Electronic medical record-keeping also pushes health care “to a more preventative side,” White said, generating the easy ability to remind patients about when diabetes tests are needed, immunizations due, or annual testing required, such as mammograms.
Electronic records “create less work for physicians,” White said, and streamline in-house processes such as billing or supplying records to patients and other doctors.
Charting is quicker, allowing providers the ability to “spend more time face-to-face with patients and less time taking notes and making notes,” White said.
With these efficiencies, patients may eventually see benefits such as reduced costs that could impact the bottom line in patient care, or the ability to leave family practices not only with a summary of their visits, but also estimates of their bills.
And in cases of emergency room visits, no matter where a Coloradan is in the state, doctors would have quick access to important health information that may improve treatment.
Electronic record-keeping could improve health care on a national level, with more accurate reporting to the federal government for statistical analysis. “No names are attached,” White said. Such information is sent in the form of numbers only.
With electronic records, “the end result is we have a record that is now safer than it was in paper form,” White said.
“An actual paper record may have to touch a dozen people’s hands or more before out the door to be billed. With electronic records, a chart is not lying at the nurse’s desk, but is now incrypted behind a password protected screen.”
“It is very accurate to say that electronic health records lead to reduced medical errors and costs,” Dammann said. “By leveraging the technology, we’re able to improve the value of health care by reducing costs that result from inefficiency, medical errors, inappropriate care and incomplete information.”
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext.19603.