Doctors Go Digital

Baptist Adopts Electronic Records System

By Don Wade

The name – Baptist OneCare – really does say it all. Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. is in the midst of installing an electronic health records system that is as ambitious an undertaking as any in Baptist’s century-plus history.

Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. is in the midst of installing an electronic health records system, Baptist OneCare, that is one of the more ambitious undertakings in the company’s history.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“We call it ‘one patient, one record,’” said Beverly Jordan, Baptist vice president and chief clinical transformation officer. “No matter where you are, the caregiver can see all of your records. It improves efficiency, safety and reduces overall cost of care.”

At the start of the year, Baptist’s four minor medical centers began using the new system designed by software vendor Epic Systems of Verona, Wis. Also coming online early this year were more than 50 clinics staffed by Baptist Medical Group doctors in metro Memphis, West Tennessee and North Mississippi. The entire system is expected to be operational by the middle of 2015.

This March, the metro Memphis hospitals, including the flagship Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, are scheduled to go live with the new system. The project also involves Baptist’s financial systems.

Baptist’s minor med centers actually had been using a different electronic system for the last three years, so for them this has represented a smaller change, but still a significant one.

“We’ll be able to share data with hospitals,” said Dr. Monica Griffin, medical director for Baptist Minor Medical Centers. “I can pull up an X-ray that a patient had in an emergency room six months ago. Or I can compare an EKG from two weeks ago to now. That is extremely valuable.”

Another key component of the new system is MyChart, a free application that allows patients to view their records, schedule appointments, refill prescriptions and even send messages to their medical providers. All from their computers or mobile devices.

“Some people will be robust users of the technology,” Griffin said. “And others …”

Not so much. Regardless, the movement to digital medical records has picked up momentum.

According to a 2012 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, only 17 percent of physicians were using an advanced electronic health records system in 2008.

By May of 2013, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reported “more than half of physicians and other eligible professionals in the United States had received a government incentive payment for adopting, implementing, upgrading, or meaningfully using an EHR.”

In addition, about 80 percent of all eligible hospitals and critical-access hospitals in the U.S. had followed suit. In 2008, the figure was just 9 percent.

Epic Systems has provided EHR systems for huge health care providers such as Cleveland Clinic and the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Griffin says Baptist’s OneCare system will help patients take a more active role in their own treatment.

“You’ve got a lot of medical alerts that will pop up a warning box,” she said. “One thing Epic has is a way to display different health advisories. For example, if a patient has high cholesterol” and is due for a test.

Critics of EHRs have voiced concerns about security.

“We have all sorts of firewalls and security systems in effect to prevent data breaches,” Epic’s founder and chief executive, Judith Faulkner, said in an interview with The New York Times. For instance, she said, files can be viewed on laptops used by doctors but those files cannot be stored there – a precaution in the event the device were to be stolen.

Faulkner added, “To the best of our knowledge, there has never been a breach of Epic’s data by a hacker.”

Jordan says there is a learning curve, like with any new electronic records system, for those using it. Baptist has about 4,000 affiliated physicians.

“Doctors would probably tell you the first few days were kind of rough,” Jordan said, “but that after that it’s been pretty good.”

How Baptist patients respond to the system’s full installation won’t be known for some time, but Jordan said: “To the patient, it should be seamless.”