MSHA hospitals achieve full integration with electronic medical records

3/15/2013


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Across Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA), everybody’s speaking the same language now – electronically, that is.

All 13 MSHA hospitals are now up and running with the health system’s comprehensive electronic medical records system, eliminating nearly all of the old paper processes in favor of faster, safer, and more convenient electronic processes. A patient’s full electronic medical record will be available immediately at any MSHA facility, with everyone using the same computer applications.

“We’re fully integrated now,” said Paul Merrywell, MSHA’s vice president for Information Systems. “All the hospitals across MSHA are on the same system, so that means health information will be entered in the same way no matter where you are. There will be less wasted time looking for information in different places, and safety is enhanced because there’s less chance of error, particularly with medications. So that means better health care.”

The new electronic system is creating a better experience for patients. Care is more patient-focused with less time spent on paperwork. Billing is smoother with less chance of error, and patients won’t have to spend as much time filling out forms with the same information again and again.

It also means medical records are at the doctor’s fingertips through the computer, rather than stored on paper in a filing cabinet – maybe even in several locations.

“With paper records, that information was wherever the paper was stored,” Merrywell said. “With electronic, the information can be wherever the physician is.”

Changing over from the old system to the new is no small task. There are many programs to bring together, and every system must work seamlessly from the outset so that there are no gaps in patient care. In order to make the transition period as simple as possible, MSHA chose to roll out the new system at each hospital in conversion events dubbed “Big Bang.” During a Big Bang, a whole range of computer systems are switched at the same time, instead of doing them one by one. It requires extensive preparation but enables users to adjust to the new systems quickly and efficiently.  

The last MSHA hospital to go live on the full electronic medical record system was Johnston Memorial Hospital, which completed its three-day Big Bang event this week.

“What’s amazing is doing all this on the fly,” said JMH’s CEO, Sean McMurray, “because we still have patients to care for. We can’t stop operating while we’re adopting a new system. So it’s just a lot of work behind the scenes to do this.”

Getting everyone onto the same operating system also allows MSHA to better analyze the patient population to understand trends in health problems, so the organization can put more services and resources where the community needs them. If health conditions like diabetes or congestive heart failure are becoming more pervasive, the new system makes it easier to see that.

“Mountain States did this because it’s the right thing to do for patients,” Merrywell said about the transformation. “The care is going to be safer and more comprehensive and be delivered more cost-effectively.”

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