Continuing the theme of electronic medical records and patient health information that we began earlier this year, I wanted to share some of a recent interview I had with Shawna Sharpe, a representative of Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville, Ky. The hospital, part of the larger Ephraim McDowell Health, has been moving to electronic medical records since 2001.
Sharpe said EMRMC does not currently participate in the Google Health or Microsoft Health Vault initiatives, but administrators are working toward that goal. After all, she told me, "it's the way of the future." But the priority right now is to get the entire hospital on the same page as far as electronic documentation. Sharpe says:
In a paper record format, the frustration has always been the possibility of obsolete or even lack of information provided to assure a complete picture of a patient's health. By having "real time" clinical information, we knew that our providers would be guaranteed the most up-to-date information available to assist with decisions on care options. Because the EMR was "the missing link" that connected all the providers in our community, it was an easy decision to move from paper to electronic records.
Though some departments within the hospital had their own electronic records systems (pharmacy, pathology, health information management, to name a few), none of those systems could "talk to each other." So when the hospital began looking for an enterprise-wide EMR system, Sharpe said, decision-makers didn't want to get a "best of breed" solution and then have to modify it. They looked for the system that best met the hospital's needs out of the box.
Cost, of course, was a consideration. She said:
Really, there is no bigger business decision than when picking an IT system. Our overall vendor reviews came down to two IT systems that we felt like we could live with. In the end, past relationships with the vendors involved and financial negotiations influenced the final decision.
Getting the medical staff and associates on board was also key. Though there was reticence at first -- especially among those who had worked from nothing but paper records for decades, Sharpe said -- the IT administrators were intent on creating an environment in which the staff and associates could get as much help as they needed to figure out the EMR and make it the best tool it could be.
Though there are still aspects of the EMR that could be better and some users who voice complaints about it, Sharpe says she doesn't think there are any who would really want to go back to the days of paper records.