New healthcare reform laws include deadlines by which providers must achieve meaningful use of electronic medical records, and Wellmont has been moving in that direction for some time, according to Martha Chill, director for the groundbreaking new project.
"That’s a driving force, but it’s not the only one," Chill said. "The real reasons for implementing electronic medical records are quality and safety for patients."
With EMR, one patient equals one medical record, and that means physicians and providers within the system will have access to view all necessary files for individual patients electronically in a single system. For example, a primary care physician, a cardiologist, an allergist and a surgeon could have access to all pertinent notes on a mutual patient.
The new EMR system will also help prevent separate doctors from prescribing duplicate medications or medications that might interact adversely. And physicians will be able to send prescriptions to pharmacies electronically, avoiding the need for patients to keep up with and deliver papers to their pharmacist.
Providers will also eventually be able to access patient information via mobile devices like smart phones or tablet computers and communicate with other Epic providers across the country. So if a patient visits another provider outside the area that uses the Epic system, his or her physicians at home can directly view the information from that visit to assist with care and treatment.
Once the new EMR system is running, patients will leave appointments with a clear and detailed summary of what happened during that visit and what they need to do next.
Ultimately, patients will have the ability to create their own medical records online and, through a secure site, view the same basic records their Wellmont physicians see.
Wellmont is the only hospital system in the region using the software from Wisconsin-based Epic Systems, although Epic products are used by other leading healthcare providers around the country. In fact, many of Wellmont’s top executives have previously worked with Epic software in other hospitals and understand the positive impacts it can have on patient care.
"Epic is really the number one electronic medical record system in the United States," Chill said. "It’s ranked extremely high by users and we’re very excited to convert our current system over to Epic."
Project staff members are currently being trained to ensure the Epic system will work with Wellmont’s processes and, in January, they will begin building the new EMR system based on a best-practice model system provided by Epic. The plan is to phase it in during 2014, when all Wellmont hospitals and physicians will "go live" on the system.
"When you change out your financial billing and medical records system, that is major," Chill said. "Our executive leadership and Board of Directors did much due diligence prior to making this choice. They realized how important an improved system would be to quality and safety. We serve a 24-county area and we see ourselves as a servant to the community. Our mission is to provide quality and safe care in a compassionate manner, and this will enhance that dramatically."