Nine MSHA hospitals now live with electronic provider order entry


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Nearly all Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) facilities have completed a major step toward full integration of electronic medical records (EMR) by switching to computerized provider order entry (POE) systems.

Johnson City Medical Center, Woodridge Hospital, and Quillen Rehabilitation Hospital went live on the new POE system in March, followed by Norton Community Hospital, in May. Sycamore Shoals HospitalJohnson County Community Hospital,Indian Path Medical CenterRussell County Medical Center, and Dickenson Community Hosptial have all been using POE systems since January or earlier.

“A POE/EMR project is the most difficult technology project a health system can undertake,” said Paul Merrywell, MSHA’s vice president of information systems. “It touches every single person in the health care system – the business office, admitting, physicians, nurses, lab, radiology – it changes the way everybody does their job.”

When a hospital uses a POE system, the physician’s orders for patient care and medications no longer start out on paper. They’re input electronically by the doctor from the beginning, making the caregiving process safer for the patient and more accessible for caregivers. Studies have shown this reduces medication errors and decreases delays in care.

For example, a patient in the hospital who needs medication can now get that medicine delivered in a fraction of the time it used to take.

“Getting routine medications to a patient could take three or four hours from the time the doctor first writes the order on paper,” said Merrywell. “But in the POE world, routine meds can get there as quickly as 20 or 30 minutes. That’s one of the major benefits – getting medicines on board faster.”

POE has a system of checks and double-checks to make sure the order is correct. It eliminates the possibility of errors related to handwriting or transcription and simplifies inventory and record-keeping.

“It’s better from a business standpoint, but the main thing is it’s a way to improve safety for our patients and increase their satisfaction at the same time,” Merrywell said.

Still to come on the POE schedule are Franklin Woods Community HospitalNiswonger Children’s Hospital, Smyth County Community Hospital and Johnston Memorial Hospital. Overall, Merrywell said, the switch to electronic medical records is closer to the end than the beginning.

“We’re right on schedule,” he said. “Each go-live is better than the previous one.”

About Mountain States Health Alliance

Mountain States Health Alliance, a not-for-profit health care organization based in Johnson City, Tenn., operates a family of hospitals serving a 29-county, four-state region (Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Southeastern Kentucky and Western North Carolina). MSHA offers a large tertiary hospital, several community hospitals, two critical access hospitals, rehabilitation, a children’s hospital, a behavioral health hospital, home care and hospice services as well as a comprehensive medical management corporation. Its 13,500 team members, associated physicians and volunteers are committed to its mission of bringing loving care to health care. For more information, visit

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