Digital campus brings two more electronic medical record systems online

April 30, 2010 | News, UToday
By Jon Strunk

The University of Toledo Medical Center is continuing its transition away from paper records with the recent installation of two systems designed to improve efficiency between clinicians, enhance patient safety, and reduce anxiety among patients’ families and loved ones.

“The goal of the Digital Campus Electronic Medical Record Project is to use technology to make health-care delivery safer, more efficient, more confidential, and more cost-effective,” said Julie Christy, director of clinical informatics, who is leading the coordination of the effort. “The patient tracker boards in the operating rooms and radiology information system are two more important pieces of the electronic medical record effort.”

Operating room patient tracker

In late March, a patient tracker system went live at UTMC designed to keep patients’ families informed of progress during surgeries in the operating room and the George Isaac Minimally Invasive Surgery Center.

Large, flat-screen monitors have been installed in waiting rooms to list patients using a unique, confidential identifier. Families are given that identification number and can follow a patient on the screen to see if he or she is in pre-op, in surgery or in recovery, said Ed Hall, administrator of surgical services in the OR.

“It’s too soon to know any official feedback as patient satisfaction surveys take some time to come in, but we’ve had tremendously positive feedback from families who have said just knowing more information about what is going on relieves a great deal of the anxiety that naturally comes when a loved one is undergoing an operation,” Hall said.

According to Hall, as important as the tracker boards are for families, a similar series of flat-screen monitors detailing patient information for clinicians in the OR has improved patient care.

“With these screens, clinicians can see the status of patients, the availability of rooms, and the expected timelines for procedures at a glance,” Hall said. “By eliminating the need to physically check on each room or with a nurse to see how an operation is progressing, more time is spent by caregivers on care and less on the logistical complexities of managing an OR workflow.”

Radiology information system

In the last month, UTMC also has rolled out a new Radiology Information System (Ris) to complement the Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS), which the Digital Campus Project brought online several years ago.

Built by General Electric, Ris enables UT radiologists to take the X-ray, MRI, CT or other digital image scans provided by PACS and wrap additional patient information into a single medical record.

“From the initial order for a scan from the primary physican, through scheduling the test and delivering the results back to the primary physican, this system has dramatically reduced our turnaround time,” said Dr. Terrence Lewis, assistant professor of radiology, who helped with the system’s installation and implementation.

According to Shirley Neese, diagnostic and clerical manager in the Department of Radiology, the turnaround time to get a report back to the requesting physician after the scan has been completed has dropped from about 24 hours down to nine.

“And we’re still working to see how we can improve the workflow process to drop that nine hours even lower,” she said.

Lewis said the new process reduces the chances for errors or mixing up charts with the wrong patient. Also, radiologists are able to dictate directly into the system using voice-to-text technology that saves time.

“We’re not sending dictation away to be transcribed and sent back to us anymore and for radiologists evaluating 80 to 100 scans of images a day, that saved time adds up quickly,” he said.

Lewis said the system is also a great teaching tool for medical students and residents, enabling physicians to evaluate students’ work, make any corrections or needed changes, and send the report on to the primary physician.

And, Lewis said, there will always be cases from time to time where lives can be saved as doctors get reports back more quickly and adjust treatment more rapidly based on a patient’s condition.

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