Lakeland goes paperlessPublished 10:38pm Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Saturday was a big day for Lakeland HealthCare: Each of its hospitals and facilities “flipped the switch” on its electronic health records (EHR) system, making the entire southwest Michigan health organization paperless.
For Lakeland, it was the culmination of more than 25,000 hours of training for more than 3,000 hospital associates over the course of 18 months. It resulted in adding 600 computers to the hospitals, bringing the total to more than 4,000.
Using software created by Epic Systems Corp., the new system connects the four Lakeland hospitals in Niles, St. Joseph, Berrien Center and Watervliet, along with its outpatient service center and affiliate physician offices.
It also connects Lakeland with other hospitals across the country that use the Epic System. That includes 30 percent of the hospitals in the United States. Forty percent of the nation’s population have filed medical records under Epic.
Kendall Troyer, project director for the EHR system implementation at Lakeland, said the biggest advantage of the new system is in communication.
“With our entire system of care having the same records, if a patient is moved around, we don’t have to ship records back and forth,” he said.
The system, a $50 million investment, should also mean reduced costs for the hospital and patients, according to Troyer.
C.J. Wachs, clinical director of information technology and nurse champion for the project, said
EHR will be a “huge time saver” for patients and hospital staff.
Under the old paper system, patients would have to answer the same medical history questions in different areas of the hospital. That is a thing of the past with the new system that gives the organization the ability to track patient information across any hospital access point.
So whether patients are in the emergency room, radiology or the pharmacy, their information will be readily available to staff members.
“It’s improved communication, improved efficiency,” Wachs said.
The system also introduces MyChart, giving patients online access to their health records and test results. It also allows them to message their doctors and request prescription refills without an office visit.
The transition has been surprisingly smooth, Wachs said.
“We were anticipating a sense of fear, uncertainty, but it has been overwhelmingly positive.
Everyone is energized,” she said.
Troyer said the switch hasn’t been without hiccups.
“It’s still a hard transition. You have to think a little differently than you used to think,” he said. “But I’ve been impressed.”
Health care organizations are under a federal mandate to reach a “meaningful use” of technology before 2015 or they will lose Medicaid and Medicare funding.
Lakeland has been working on implementing EHR for two years.
Tags: Lakeland HealthCare