By Kirk Johannesen
COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) – Stethoscopes, tongue depressors and little flashlights have been longtime tools of the trade for doctors and nurses.
Soon, laptop computers and other portable electronic devices will be, too.
A nationwide push to turn health records into digital documents has hospitals and doctors converting from traditional paper files or upgrading existing electronic systems because electronic records are viewed as a more efficient way of delivering care and ensuring patient safety.
Physicians and hospital administrators say electronic health records overcome the problem of easy-to-misinterpret illegible handwriting; reduce the risk of bad drug interactions because of automated alerts; help gather information on illnesses and best practices; eliminate duplication of tests; and eliminate delays in getting information into patient files.
Columbus Regional Health, which comprises Columbus Regional Hospital and a number of affiliated clinics, is investing about $15 million – its largest investment since the June 2008 flood – to implement a new electronic health record system that will allow patient information to be accessed easily throughout the hospital, and ultimately the entire health network. The electronic system is scheduled to go live on June 24.
The initial move involves the hospital and CRH’s occupational and physical therapy locations on Marr Road and at the Mill Race Center. More of the Columbus Regional Health system will join the electronic network over time.
“It’s the right thing to do for patient safety, quality of care and ease of access,” said Diana Boyer, CRH vice president and chief information officer.
A further benefit for CRH patients is that they will eventually be able to access their medical information via computer portals.
The 2009 economic stimulus legislation passed by the House and Senate and signed by President Barack Obama contained incentives for creating and using new technology to ensure that the United States had a digital infrastructure – including electronic health records.
The U.S. health care system is fragmented, but new technology can ensure a seamless transition of care from doctor to doctor, Doug Leonard, president of the Indiana Hospital Association and former chief executive officer of CRH, told an audience last month at a health issues forum held at The Commons.1 2 3 next >>