At SSM Health Care, the conversion from paper charts to electronic health records means even safer, more efficient and higher quality of care for the 1.4 million patients we see each year. With each go-live, SSM finds itself in rare company. According to HIMSS Analytics, a national research firm in healthcare information technology, only 0.08% of U.S. hospitals are using EHR at the level SSM Health Care is.
SSM Health Care
SSMs conversion to an EHR is called Project Beacon and is a unique partnership between SSM Integrated Health Technologies and the healthcare systems clinicians. Thousands of SSM clinicians had input into Project Beacon. Who better to help design and build an EHR than the clinicians who use it?
The first SSM hospital to go live with the EHR was SSM St. Joseph Hospital West in Lake St. Louis, Mo., in March 2008, and in August 2009, our seventh hospital, SSM DePaul Health Center in Bridgeton, Mo., will come online. More than 140 physicians are using the EHR in their offices and clinics, and the number is growing. The conversion, which began in 2005 and will be completed in 2012, will involve 15 SSM hospitals and more than 300 physician offices at a cost of more than $300 million.
Patients are already benefiting where EHR is live in SSM:
- They no longer need to hand carry to their doctors offices the film generated by MRI, X-ray and other diagnostic tests because the EHRs picture archiving and communication system transmits them electronically. Physicians, technologists and other clinicians can simultaneously view the digital images, which reduce the time from diagnosis to treatment. Computers are at patient bedsides for instant access by clinicians.
- Patient safety is increased when physicians enter their treatment orders directly into computers (computerized physician order entry). Not only is less time spent deciphering handwriting, but the chances for error are reduced during transmission.
- More than 90% of medications are being scanned at patients bedsides using barcodes. The technology reduces the chances of medication errors by alerting clinicians if the five rights of medication administrationright patient, right drug, right dose, right time, right routehavent been followed. The system also checks for drug interactions and allergies.
- Patients, who see their doctors at SSM physician offices, can use their personal computers to securely view their medical histories, test results and medications; request appointments and prescription refills; communicate by e-mail with their doctors; and access an online medical reference service.
- Patient medication errors are reduced when physicians send prescriptions electronically from their offices to pharmacies. More than 2,000 prescriptions are sent electronically each day.
- The old system of paper recordkeeping was fraught with inefficiency.
- Patients were frustrated with repeating their information because computer systems in hospitals, physician offices and clinics werent connected in real time.
- Clinicians time was wasted reading inconsistent or illegible records or hunting down lost or misplaced charts.
Project Beacon changes all that. Much of its success is owed to the collaboration between more than 150 SSM Integrated Health Technologies employeeswho provide project management and technical expertiseand thousands of clinicians from across SSM, which includes hospitals and physician offices in four states: Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma. Some 300 clinicians from around SSM had a hand in picking the EHR that worked best for them among three companies.
Clinical groups were set up to include clinicians from each entity and from various departments to provide input on the EHR, seek feedback from other clinicians and develop consensus on best practices. The nursing informatics group, for instance, looked at how they work, how they could improve on their work, and how the EHR could support them in caring for patients. Workflows were standardized across the system so that no matter where clinicians are located they work with the same data set. All clinicians train on the new system within eight weeks of launch.
SSM continues to develop metrics for clinical and patient safety outcomes. Clinician (end-user) satisfaction is another key measure of success. End users are surveyed one month, four months and 12 months after launch. At SSM St. Joseph Hospital West, survey results showed an average score of 5.4 on a 10-point scale after the first month and an improvement to 6.9 at four months. (Survey results for 12 months have not yet been tabulated.) Further, clinical results are tracked so that evidence-based changes can be made in patient care processes. With each launch, SSM Integrated Health Technologies improves on its processes for upcoming go lives. Transition management teams, steering committees and trained super users support other clinicians before and after launch.
SSMs considerable investment in a project as far-reaching as this, especially during tight economic times, is due to our strong commitment to providing care to patients that is as safe, efficient and of as high quality as possible. Our exploration goes back a decade. Nevertheless, as we pursue funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, we hope the government recognizes our unwavering, forward-looking approach to improving the patient-care experience, including our adoption of EHR. We have been very thoughtful in selecting a vendor and in using EHR to make meaningful and evidence-based changes in the delivery of care to patients. Clinicians now have more tools to provide the best care possible to patients, and patients are even stronger partners in their care.
Chief information officer, senior vice president
SSM Health Care
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