St. Mary's Health Center (SMHC) has gone completely digital with the implementation of an electronic health records (EHR) system at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 28.
According to SSM Health Care, SMHC's parent company, the hospital is the 16th of 18 SSM hospitals to make the transformation from paper medical records to the EHR.
An EHR is an electronic record of a patient's health information.
Brian Barry, regional vice president of SMHC's ambulatory network, said one of the main benefits of the hospital having an EHR system is that it increases patient safety.
"For example, it allows medication barcode scannings so that you are matching up a medication to an armband," Barry said. "You're scanning both and ensuring that there is not only a multiple identifier, but also a computer identifier.
"You're ensuring that you have absolutely zero medication errors, which are fairly prevalent in health care outside of systems using the electronic medical record."
Barry said many of SMHC's systems, such as lab, radiology and billing systems, have been electronic for a while.
"But, they are not the keeper of the health record," he said.
Jan Zimmerman, director of SMHC's clinic network, said each employee received 25-30 hours of training prior to launching the EHR system.
She said SMHC had originally planned to launch the EHR system once it moves into its new facility on Mission Drive in Nov. 2014.
"We actually decided to go forward with it instead, so that we have it in place before the new hospital," she said.
The hospital's ambulatory and physician clinics have used an EHR system since September 2012.
Zimmerman said SSM's EHR initiative, known as Project Beacon, has cost $330 million statewide.
"It's expensive," she said. "But, that's part of what some of the government incentives are helping us with, for hospitals and doctors offices and that type of thing.
"If you meet requirements that the government requests, then you get incentives for the electronic records."
SMHC is also launching an electronic service known as MyChart Nov. 1. The service will start in one SMHC clinic. It allows patients to access their health information online.
"It does a variety of things," Barry said. "It allows us to keep track of your health history, you can view and print your updated list of medications, it allows you to request medication renewals and refills, review your lab results, even send a message to your doctors office or request an appointment and even view your future appointments that you have established."
He said a patient can access MyChart on a computer, iPhone or Android device.
SMHC also has a communication plan that will launch with MyChart Nov. 1.
"As we roll out MyChart, there will be a lot of communications that we'll be sending out to the market, as well as to the patient base," Barry said. "I think realizing the value that patients can receive and the benefits that patients can receive, like using a patient portal like MyChart, keeps you from having to call physicians and wait for phone calls.
"Being able to renew prescriptions is a huge value to a lot of people that are on continuous medications."
Barry said its important for patients to know that the hospital's EHR system and MyChart are meant to advance exceptional clinical quality in patient safety.
"That's what people expect out of health care," he said.