Monday Medical: Hospital updates electronic medical records system
April 30, 2018
Editor's note: This story is the first in a two-part series on UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center's shift to Epic, the electronic medical record system used throughout UCHealth. Part 1 covers what electronic medical records are and how they help physicians in the delivery of health care; Part 2 will cover benefits to patients and what patients can expect with the transition.
Sending your medical history to a specialist or making sure your emergency room doctor knows about a recent change to your medications is about to get a lot easier.
Starting in early May, patients at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center will receive an electronic medical record, or EMR, through Epic, the leading provider of electronic medical records in the country.
"Currently in health care, there are lots of silos," said Mark Clark, vice president of application services for UCHealth. "Your doctor's office has a medical record; the hospital has its own. Now, we'll be able to offer an integrated medical record to our community."
Below, Clark and Dr. Gary Breen, an internal medicine physician at Yampa Valley Medical Center and physician champion for the transition, outline what EMRs are and how they help in delivering top-notch care.
• EMR basics: An EMR collects all of a patient's medical information, including lab tests, imaging studies, physician notes, medications prescribed, vaccinations and more and safely stores it in one online location that is accessible to the patient as well as health care providers. With more than 190 million records, Epic is the leading provider of EMRs in the country.
• EMRs help physicians: With an EMR in Epic, a physician can quickly see a patient's past medical history, including recent lab work, imaging studies and medication changes.
"It's an extraordinarily powerful tool," Breen said. "In the hospital setting, we're often seeing the sicker, more complicated patients, where time is of the essence. We need to know what their medical problems are and what their records show, which Epic allows. Ultimately, I can provider better and more timely patient care.
"If I see that an outpatient colleague saw this patient a week earlier and made an adjustment to medication or diet, I'll have more insight to what ultimately might have happened. Clinically, the more the data we have, the better."
• EMRs allow for better health care: EMRs can also create efficiencies within the health care system, ensuring that lab tests and imaging studies aren't duplicated and helping to better inform all participating physicians.
"The doctors' notes are shared, so there are fewer questions about why a patient is there, what their background is, what meds they are on," Breen said.
Additionally, data trends are easier to access. Patient metrics such as readmission rates, patient satisfaction and medications prescribed can be summarized and reviewed.
"There's a lot of power with Epic in being able to query your patient database that we currently do not have," Breen said.
Since YVMC is part of the broader UCHealth system, local physicians will have access to the collective medical knowledge of the entire university system.
"We can leverage the best medical-based and practice-based specifications, providing more efficient, best-practice care," Clark said.
Yet another benefit for physicians: more time with patients and less time on paperwork.
"Technology should be helping people; it shouldn't be a burden," Clark said. "Using a tool like this helps health care workers shift more time to talking to and caring for patients. And that makes for better patient care."
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.