ST. MARYS — Joint Township District Memorial Hospital was recently awarded a $1.5 million incentive from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for its participation in the electronic health records incentive program.
The program, Meaningful EHR Use, challenges care providers to move toward electronic records through a series of phases to be implemented through 2015. Patient Care Vice President Deb McKee said Joint Township District Memorial Hospital approached Phase I of the program by focusing on the hospital’s emergency department.
“The government left the hospitals to choose how they wanted to implement Phase I of Meaningful Use, and we chose to do that through our emergency department,” she said. “The reason for that is that well over 50 percent of the patients who end up being admitted in our hospital come through the emergency department. It’s really the front door of our hospital. So, we chose to attest for Meaningful Use I through our emergency department information system.”
The new system utilizes computers to keep electronic records, rather than handwritten records.
“It really takes the paper process that we’ve had in the past of physicians’ handwriting on the health record and nurses’ handwriting to all of that being electronic,” McKee said, noting that in addition to the records of an emergency department patient, the communication between emergency department staff and other departments regarding the patient is also kept electronically.
“That is really important because that improves patient safety, as well as the efficiency of that patient care experience. It improves the throughput of our patients to get in the emergency department and on their way, as well as the efficiency of the caregivers.”
McKee stressed the improvements to patient safety that can be made through electronic health records, noting that reading a physician’s handwriting will no longer be a problem and the use of automatic reminders to help provide the best quality of care of patients.
“It’s really about hardwiring patient safety into our process, and we are using the computer to help us to do that,” McKee said.
She noted that emergency department patients may also request a copy of their records in electronic form.
“We also have the ability, if the patient requests, to provide, in an electronic format, their health record,” she said.
“In the past, if you as a patient wanted your health record, you would need to come in to the medical records department and we would copy that health record and there would be a charge to that. One of the requirements of Meaningful Use I is that hospitals need to be able to provide to a patient, at their request, their health record in electronic form.”
McKee said the hospital’s participation in Meaningful Use is another step that Joint Township District Memorial Hospital has taken to become ranked in the top 1 percent of all hospitals regarding quality and efficiency in delivering care.
“We believe that by us attesting to and receiving these grant dollars, as one of very few in Ohio in its first phase, is just further evidence of our commitment to continue to provide the best quality care to our community and in the most efficient manner,” McKee said. “Moving toward electronic health record is one way to do that.”
Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, McKee said, will continue to expand its use of electronic health records, attesting to Phase II of Meaningful Use in 2013.
“We will be expanding our health record to go beyond the emergency department to now include patients that are hospitalized in our hospital, and we will be able to further hardwire the patient safety requirements into the entire hospital stay, not just the emergency stay for patients,” she said.
McKee applauded the work of the emergency room department employees who implemented the program.
“I would like to acknowledge the hard work of many people in our organization that allowed us to be able to attest to Meaningful Use I and win this award,” McKee said. “We certainly couldn’t have done it without the strong leadership of our ED physicians and staff as well as other key people in the hospital. It’s just further evidence of the kind of organization that the Grand Lake Health System is. We work hard every day to meet the needs of our health care community.”