Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln “went live” this week with a transition from paper to electronic medical records (EMR), becoming the last of Carolinas HealthCare System’s primary enterprise facilities to undergo the switch.
The move is part of a nationwide trend designed to improve both patient care and hospital efficiency, as well as prepare for requirements contained in health care reform legislation.
CMC-Lincoln began the first phase of the transition a couple of years ago when it moved to its newly constructed campus on McAlister Road in Lincolnton and switched computer systems, said Elaine Haynes, chief nursing executive at the hospital.
Transitioning to EMR will allow patient data to be accessed and shared across the hospital system’s various locations and offices and through all points of care, which officials believe will lead to less room for error and quicker service. Eventually, through a health information exchange (HIE), the hospital system hopes to mobilize information electronically at medical practices across the country.
CHS is employing the Canopy EMR system, which, on average, is used by 13,000 clinical users each day, providing more than eight million transactions with an average response time of less than one second. There are seven million electronic charts accessed and six million electronic orders written by providers each month.
The connectivity should cut down on repeat procedures and reduce mistakes that can occur with handwritten notes, as well as patient identification and prescription errors.
Rich Albarran, assistant vice president of information services at CHS, said he believes that in eliminating a paper trail that could be lost or misplaced, patients’ information will also become “even more secure.”
Convenience will also be an upside. Through an online portal, patients will be able to access their own data and exchange information with providers.
Should the need arise, said Albarran, a backup procedure is in place if the system goes down, a worry often accompanying any transition that places its trust in technology.
Nonetheless, it’s been smooth sailing for CMC-Lincoln so far. The “go-live” transition began Tuesday and will continue for two weeks, with an on-site command center, staffed by members of the Information Services Department at CHS, running 24/7.
“Super users,” experts from other CHS hospitals who have previously experienced a “go-live” conversion, are also embedded in departments throughout the hospital for immediate response.
CHS has been recognized as a national leader in health care information services, having achieved a designation for nine straight years as a “Most Wired” hospital and health care system by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine.
Part of the hospital system’s focus throughout its latest initiative has been to keep patients informed of the changes.
Vivian Schronce of Lincolnton, a patient at CMC-Lincoln who had a total-knee replacement this week, said the transition has “moved along like clockwork.”
“I feel very confident about my personal information,” she added.
Staff members have kept her in the loop and have been able to process her data much quicker, she noted.
“It’s good to see it,” she said of the transition.