Heartland Community Health Center may be taking a step toward the realm of science-fiction.
Last week, staff at Heartland, Riverfront Plaza Suite 100, began training on an electronic health record system (EHR). Jon Stewart, Heartland CEO, said the system will streamline operations.
“We can pull up all of our diabetic patients who haven’t had an eye exam in the last year and say ‘OK, let’s send a notice to them that they need to come in for an eye exam,’” Stewart said. “It’s possible by paper, but it’s impractical.”
Physicians will also be able to see how different drugs interact with one another, and be able to keep track of what other doctors have prescribed for patients they share.
That type of information can easily be lost if a paper chart is misplaced.
The new system was expensive, and was made possible after Heartland raised nearly $90,000 from private donors and in-kind support from Douglas County and Kansas University.
The Obama administration has called for medical offices around the country to make the switch to electronic records, and this year, Medicare and Medicaid are giving them financial incentives them to do so. Offices that switch can apply to receive higher reimbursement rates from the Federal Government to help cover the costs of the EHR systems.
Stewart said beyond those incentives, Heartland wanted to switch to EHR because it enables better care.
“It’s very much about delivering care in ways that are very efficient and very safe,” Stewart said.
Another Lawrence clinic, Health Care Access Clinic, 330 Maine St., made the switch to an EHR in 2010.
“In a click of a button, we can see how are our diabetic patients are doing with maintaining blood sugar levels. The turnaround time had been enhanced markedly,” said clinic Executive Director Nikki White.
The EHR has made it easier to convince donors to give, because the clinic can show them patient outcomes more easily. One drawback to EHR is that so many companies are developing them, and none of those systems talk to each other. Stewart described it as like the old war between Macs and PCs, times 100.
But that problem is being worked on, and experts believe different systems will be communicating in the near future. If that becomes a reality, any doctor would be able to pull up a patient’s entire medical history, which could reduce the mistakes an incomplete history might cause.
“Medical practices all over the country drive themselves crazy running around, looking for paper charts,” Stewart said. That won’t be the case any longer at Heartland.