Our large OB/GYN practice on the North Shore of Massachusetts has come full-circle implementing an electronic health record: the first seven months of implementation was a struggle but now, two years later, people would be crying if someone said that they were taking it away. It was an arduous process, but wed never go back to paper records.
Based on the campus of 332-bed Beverly (Mass.) Hospital, we have 13 physicians, seven midwives, and two nurse practitioners. We have five office sites plus the hospital, and since our patients dont necessarily visit the same site each time, sharing patient information among our sites prior to the EHR and our secure e-mail system was a nightmare of faxing and phoning.
Our interest in an EHR evolved into firm plans and became a reality thanks to implementation support by the Northeast Physician Hospital Organization, or NEPHO, and a grant provided through our physician organization, New England Medical Group. My group, Essex County OB/GYN Associates, was among 50 practices that NEPHO helped to launch EHRs, and like 90% of our colleagues, we selected GE Centricity for our practice management and EHR system.
Concordant, a Massachusetts-based healthcare IT consulting company, assisted in setting up our secure messaging system, delivered workflow consulting regarding our use of this technology, and provided IT design and implementation services for our practice.
We began our implementation over the winter of 2006 and went live that summer. Early in the process we recognized that tablet PCs would provide the most flexibility, so we prepared our offices with wireless capabilities and secure network connections.
In the spring of 2006 we replaced an older practice management system that was no longer supported with the GE Centricity system for front desk, back desk, billing and scheduling. Then it was on to a yeomans task of rolling out an EHR to healthcare providers who had been writing in charts and dictating notes for 20 years.
Since our practice had some people with minimal computer experience, the task of converting to an entire documentation system on tablet PCs was challenging. Our first step was to help staff and providers become familiar with computers during Saturday training sessions, and from there we began learning how to use the EHR. As we became more comfortable with the system, we held seminars among ourselves to share tips and enhance the systems template forms.