Electronic Health Records Making Life Easier At WCA

On March 1, 2013, WCA Hospital took a large step to make it easier and faster to process and access medical information.

That was the day the hospital went “live” with its new electronic medical records system. The system aims to enhance access to patient information and achieve greater care coordination throughout WCA Hospital to provide the highest quality, most accessible and affordable care to patients.

“That was a big day,” said Keith Robison, WCA Hospital chief information officer. “All applications at one time went live.”

Robison said, nearly a year into the new system, things have gone well with the new electronic records. In fact, he said the conversion has been so successful that officials from other hospitals are in “awe” of what WCA employees have been able to do in just a year. The hospital is now in the top 12 percent of all hospitals with its electronic medical records, according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. WCA is also the only Southern Tier hospital with electronic records.

“We want from Stage 1 to Stage 6 electronic medical records, according to (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society),” Robison said.

The change from paper files to electronic took the hospital about a year to complete.

The change was made possible with the help of federal and state funding.

“We are always promoting patient care,” Robison said. “The cost savings is in the timeliness of the information. Orders go to all departments. There are less calls. There are less forms.”

The information in the electronic medical records can be accessed remotely. Ann Downing, WCA Hospital vice president of nursing, said when a nurse calls a doctor at 4 a.m. about a patient, the doctor no longer has to try to remember the patient’s medical information.

“They can look at the whole chart at home in bed, which before they couldn’t,” she said. “This is very important for us to make good decisions.”

Downing said the old system used papers and charts which stayed with the patient. There was only one, so only one caregiver could look at the patient’s information at a time. Also, information wasn’t immediately put into a patient’s chart and doctors didn’t know instantly when test results were finalized.

“Now in the electronic file any number of people can look at the patient’s chart at the same time,” she said. “Computers and devices that are everywhere in the hospital instantly download information into the patient’s chart. Alerts go off when test results come back.”

Downing said hospital policies and procedures can be found instantly with the new medical records. Also, reporting information to Medicare or the state is now easier to process. Finding out information about a patient at another facility, like WCA’s Jones Memorial Health Center, is now easier to access.

“In the past I had to go there and look at the chart,” Downing said. “The benefits to the patient are just remarkable. It is remarkable to see what we have done in a year.”

Electronic medical records also eliminate the process of having to decipher someone else’s handwriting.

“There is no challenge in doing that anymore,” Downing said. “This is a great safety feature.”

Robison said the next step for the hospital with electronic records is making files accessible to patients online. Robison said through a patient portal, a patient or someone with the patient’s permission, can access medical reports online.

“That is their information. They can see it too,” he said.