Information technology and administrative officials at Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics on Oct. 1 will launch their $60 million investment of integrating electronic medical records live on Twitter, underscoring how the health care industry has embraced digital technology and social media to improve efficiencies in medicine.
“For everybody who treats you to see the same information makes common sense to people,” said Darrin Szilagyi, senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “As a lay person, I've always taken for granted that my physicians talk to each other, but the truth is they don't. Something like Epic gives you the ability to have all of your caregivers see the same thing.”
This system also allows patients to access their medical records online through a portal. A login and PIN will be obtained following a visit at their doctor's office.
“Unlike today, we're going to have a way to have an enhanced patient portal for our patients when they leave visits so their visit summaries will be electronically available to them after their encounter,” said Jeff Pearson, vice president and chief information officer at Mother Frances. “It also gives them the ability to schedule future appointments and to communicate with their doctor electronically.”
A smart phone app for the program, MyChart, is available for people to access these encounters, day or night.
Mother Frances signed the contract with Epic in April 2011. Epic is a seamless database product and is more widely used by large hospital systems such as Duke University Health System, which shelled out $700 million for the software. It's considered the industry's Cadillac of health care software. Szilagyi said the use of Epic is widespread in Texas, and he calls it “the Apple of electronic records.”
The hospital has had an electronic health record system, but with Epic, it allows them to do more by integrating scheduling, billing and registration. This allows less duplicate paperwork, and according to some, a potential to reduce medical errors and save money.
Previous paper records are being scanned and included into electronic reports.
When patients are transported to other hospitals that do not use Epic, they will that facility can unite it with whatever system they use, reducing the potential for repeated tests and procedures.
It was the focus of a five-year plan within the new health care law. President Barack Obama announced in 2010 that hospitals and doctors would get some funding to help begin that process and/or to participate in a incentive program. They set aside at least $27 billion to incentive providers.
“This journey toward electronic medical records has been going on for many years and it's predated the availability of any of these fundings,” Szilagyi said. “And it's true for a lot of health systems across the country. They moved forward toward implementing EMR because they knew it was the right thing to do for them. It's good that the government is encouraging those who might have otherwise sat on the fence to get them but I don't think it's something that drove out that decision.”
Facilities that use EHRs in a useful way, or what they call, “meaningful use,” will get additional Medicaid and Medicare dollars.
Providers who do not adopt EHRs by 2015 will see a 1 percent reduction in Medicare payments and thereafter, an additional 1 percent in subsequent years, up to a maximum 5 percent.
Mother Frances could receive about $21 million from Medicaid and Medicare payments over a four-year period, once they are able to prove they use the EHRs efficiently. They have received about $2 million so far through Medicaid.
During their Twittercast beginning at 7 a.m. Oct. 1, the IT team along with others will help the community understand the changes that are occurring by marking milestones throughout the day such as the first registration using the new software.
Hospital officials said they want patients to understand what this means for them and how they will benefit from it through photos, chatting and video links.
“We want to get the word out and make this as transparent a process as possible,” Pearson said. “A lot of people are probably very interested in what's going on here.”
The go live event will have 350 people at clinics and billing centers to get support during the first day. Observers from other hospitals around the country, including Scott & White Healthcare, are coming to observe and will be there with the 70-member Epic install team and trainers.
Updated Friday, September 29, 2012 at 3:55 p.m. CDT