Good-Bye, Paper! Hello, EHR!
Posted on Feb 12, 2009
By Todd Peterson, Vice President of Information Technology, Eden Medical Center
My name is Todd Peterson and I’m Vice President of Information Technology at Eden Medical Center. Castro Valley has been my home for the past 26 years, and I’ve worked for Sutter Health for ten years, joining Eden 2 ½ years ago.
My team is responsible for making sure all computer systems are up and fully functioning 24/7; and while computer repair is a significant part of our business, we are responsible for implementing new technologies that are now vital to many aspects of our patients’ care.
One major project underway that will be a cornerstone of the new Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley hospital is Electronic Health Records (EHR), a project conceived when I was still at Sutter. Basically the new hospital is being designed with minimal use of paper. That’s right… no more clipboards and illegible handwriting.
The EHR will facilitate all clinical documentation and reporting; all medical disciplines will be recorded. What does this mean? Our physicians will get a full view of a patient’s care at any given time, from any location, once their patient has been admitted to the hospital. So the patient’s medical history as it relates to diagnostics, drug therapy, procedures, diet, rehabilitation and notes generated by physicians and nurses will all be available online. This also includes previous visits to any Sutter Health-owned facility or physician office.
The EHR will ultimately be integrated with biomedical technology. That means much of the clinical equipment in patient rooms—heart monitors, blood pressure cuffs, IV pumps, and even the beds themselves—will feed information directly into the patient records. With real time monitors of the patient’s vitals, a physician can be alerted if a trend in their medical condition warrants medical attention well before a critical threshold is met. So the EHR will be a documentation system and much more; it will provide clinicians with a wider view of what is happening with a patient at all times so they can quickly take action.
Patient records will also show a correlation of clinical events, a true cause and effect. For example, a physician may order medications in response to laboratory test results. Subsequent laboratory tests can then be correlated to the timing of the medication and will demonstrate the degree of effectiveness. This constant correlation gives the entire care team the information they need to deliver the best care at the right time.
The critical exchange between the doctor who is on call and the nurse on duty will also be enhanced by EHR. Without delay, a physician can access the patient’s record from home, while the nurse views the same information from a workstation in the patient’s room so rather than just rely on a verbal exchange they are both viewing the patient’s record.
One of the key benefits of EHR is patient safety. In the area of medication management, physicians will use computerized order entry to address legibility issues and alert the physician to any contra indications, such as allergies, food or other medications that the patient is on. The process of administering the drug involves the nurse scanning the barcodes on the patient’s wristband and medication bottles. The system will confirm the patient’s name, medication name, correct time, correct dose and proper route (oral, or otherwise).
We will provide full accessibility to patient data. All this information, all images, reports, etc. will be available at the patient’s bedside. Every patient room, alcoves between rooms and nurses’ station will be furnished with a computer workstation so patient records can be accessed throughout the hospital. Physicians will also have wireless devices such as PC tablets to provide the most flexibility and mobility throughout the hospital.
Down the road, our patients who see Sutter Health physicians will be able to see their own clinical results online; they’ll be able to email their doctors and arrange appointments, and more importantly, track their own history and take responsibility for their own health. We may even use EHR to work in concert with our county and state health departments to track health trends in the community.
The prospects for EHR are endless. Our patients and clinicians become real partners in the delivery of care over the long term.
Your input is very important to us. I invite you to ask me any questions about the EHR system by either commenting beneath this post (click on the title of the post, if you are on the blog’s front page, and you’ll see the comment box below), or by emailing me.