After more than 70 training classes attended by several hundred students spanning 400 classroom hours, the staff at Summit Pacific Medical Center are excited to start something new. On January 1 the medical center will implement a long awaited and much anticipated electronic health record, or EHR, system across all of their clinics and hospital departments.
What is an EHR? Essentially, it’s something that will make your life, and your physician’s life, more simple and more safe. At its root, an EHR is a digital version of a patient’s complete medical record including medical history, diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images and laboratory test results.
Currently at SPMC, different specialties use various programs to register patients and manage their records. This can result in duplicate work being done by you and your care provide (think of the forms you are often asked to fill out, rewriting name, address, phone number, etc.). With the system-wide implementation of Meditech, SPMC’s electronic health records system, no matter where you go within SPMC, all records, from a trip to the ED to your annual mammogram, will be seamlessly uploaded into one system for you and your care team to review. Visiting Urgent Care? The provider can now look at your record and view prior tests and results, speeding their diagnosis and your healing.
Molly Mellon, ARNP and primary care provider at McCleary Healthcare Clinic shares, “Having the same charting program organization-wide will make a dramatic improvement in our continuity of care. There will be a shorter wait, possibly even no wait, for providers to access the information needed to ensure seamless care, regardless of where in the Summit system they are located.”
The entire team at Summit Pacific has been hard at work preparing for the change for more than a year. Staff worked one-on-one with software developers to customize the system meeting Summit’s specific needs. The trainings have been extensive, but the staff feels ready. “I have found training to be helpful and am happy that we have the opportunity to work through any glitches before we go live,” shares Medical Assistant Amber Miller. “I feel ready and I’m very excited for the change! Change can be good if you give it a chance.”
CEO Renee Jensen cannot praise the staff enough for the work they have been doing this past year. “It’s been amazing to watch our staff come together and work toward this common goal,” she shares. “I know they have all been pushed to their limits, but they continue to deliver top-notch patient care while spending a lot of extra time meeting with peers to re-design workflows, meeting with software staff to share information and spending countless hours learning the new system.”
SPMC’s Spirit Team, an internal group who plan fun events for employees, has helped keep spirits high during the transition. Fun events including ice cream socials, a traveling mock-tail bar and a stress ball building workshop keep up morale. “It’s been fun to be able to provide these extra perks and encouragement to staff during this busy and sometimes stressful time,” Trish Werdahl, Spirit Team Chair shared.
Despite the hard work required, staff remain positive about the change. Michelle Marti, Director of Emergency Department and Acute Care, is especially excited. “The impact this software will have in our Emergency Department is unmeasurable. It could even be lifesaving. Our emergency physicians will have access to more information, in a shorter amount of time than they ever have before. If, for instance, a patient who sees one of our primary care providers comes in and is unconscious or unable to communicate, the ED provider can quickly and accurately find out their allergies, ongoing medical conditions and medications. All that information will greatly assist in making a diagnosis and prescribing medications that won’t adversely react with other medications that patient may be taking.”
The benefits to patients won’t only be seen in the hospital, either. The patient portal offers online access to test results, appointment services, email to your doctor and more. “The portal system will be more use-friendly so we can maximize our patients’ ability to get their care needs met,” says Mellon. “They will be able to call, email or use an app to get their medical home care needs addressed.” Patients will need to enroll, or re-enroll, in the new portal to access in the new system’s many benefits.
As the new EHR is implemented over the first few months of 2017, patients will notice several changes. In addition to smoother care coordination and improved safety checks, patients will notice new billing statements for charges incurred January 1 and after.
Patients may also notice a bit of a learning curve for the staff. While they have trained rigorously, when the system goes live there are bound to be some hiccups. Please be patient with staff during implementation. There may be additional conversation at your first 2017 appointment, ensuring the EHR system has the correct information loaded for your personal record, and therefore appointments may run a bit longer than usual. Wait times for all services may be increased initially.
Summit Pacific does offer a Virtual Care Clinic, which is almost like an online urgent care, that has little to no wait time and appointments are usually over within a half hour of when you request the visit.
Summit Pacific Medical Center truly appreciates your patience and partnership during this transition. “Once we start using the system and work out the initial kinks, staff and patients are going to be really happy with what it offers in terms of convenience and safety,” says Marti.
For more information, visit this list of frequently asked questions available on the Summit Pacific website or call 360-346-2222.