Date: 2/4/2011

Community Healthcare System Invests in Electronic Medical Record System

Celebrating the first baby born under the new electronic medical record system, Epic, Alicia Hart, RNC, nurse manager of the Family Birthing Center at St. Mary Medical Center presents the Justak family of Hobart with a supply of DVDs and a portable player. Pictured with Hart are mom Nicole, sister Hailey and dad Corey with baby Janessa sleeping in his arms.

Community Healthcare System will begin implementation of a $40 million comprehensive electronic medical record system that will create a single, consolidated and continuously updated record for every patient.

As the area’s largest healthcare system to go live with Epic, about 5,000 healthcare workers and nearly 1,000 physicians are now being trained on the new system. On Tuesday, Feb. 1, the first of its three hospitals — St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart — will begin using the system; St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago will follow on August 1 and Community Hospital in Munster on October 1.

Epic will enable the hospitals to automate all aspects of the healthcare process — from registration to clinical documentation to measuring outcomes. It will replace many of the hospitals’ disparate clinical and financial networks with a single, unified information technology system.

“We believe this investment in a comprehensive electronic medical record system will change patient care as we know it today,” said John Gorski, Chief Operating Officer of Community Healthcare System. “This technology will help us gain efficiencies in our workplace, as well as improve patient safety and the quality of care.”

At its most basic level, an electronic medical record system creates a digital version of a patient’s paper chart. But these systems are capable of so much more and that is why Community Healthcare System is planning to implement many of Epic’s advanced capabilities, Gorski said.

Some of these advances include: patient ID bands with bar codes that will be scanned to match the right patient with the right medication; a secure online connection giving patients the ability to email their physicians, schedule appointments, order medications and access results of medical tests; and electronic prescribing of medications replacing handwritten prescriptions. Not all of these advances will be implemented at once, although many will be in place with each hospital’s “go-live” date.

For the patients, this new system brings all their information together in one record, in one computer system in “real time.”

“With paper charts and different computer systems utilized throughout the hospital as well as those used by individual doctors, patient information is typically gathered from many different sources,” said Ramona Fissinger, Vice-President of Health Data & Support Services for Community Healthcare System and EPIC Project Director. “With Epic all of that information will now be at our fingertips.”

To better coordinate care between the physicians and the hospitals, Community Healthcare System’s Care Network physicians will also use Epic to electronically document treatment provided in their offices. When patients from these Care Network practices are admitted to the hospital, information from those visits will be available to the team providing care.

“When critical decisions need to be made about a patient, our team will have access to more information, as well as receive instant alerts as their condition changes and new results are posted to the electronic record,” Gorski said. “Epic will give our team the tools to build a safer and more connected healthcare environment for our patients.”

Community Healthcare System has been preparing for this transition for more than one year, working with its physicians and staff to ensure that the new electronic medical record system is built around best medical practices, said Mark Simaga, M.D., the system’s Chief Medical Information Officer who serves as the key liaison between the clinical and information technology teams involved in this project.

“What is important to know is that this is not just an IT project,” Simaga said. “We brought together clinical and information technology teams to learn from one another so that we could use advances in computer technology to improve the quality of care and provide for a better healthcare experience for our patients and staff.”