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Hospitals say they're making progress on electronic records
While a recent report by the Missouri Hospital Association showed hospitals in the greater Southeast Missouri region behind the rest of the state when it comes to electronic medical records, hospital officials say they are making progress.
Hospitals in Cape Girardeau, Perryville and Sikeston are higher than the regional and state average in their compliance with 24 key electronic records functions included in federal health care reform.
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act offers hospitals Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt certain electronic health record technology and use it to achieve specified objectives.
Among the 19 hospitals in Southeast Missouri that participated in the survey, hospitals are using an average of 9.4 out of 24 core electronic health record functions. The functions are divided into four main areas: electronic clinical documentation, results viewing, computerized provider order entry and decision support.
All four area hospitals have invested in new electronic health records software systems and new computers, servers and other equipment.
Perry County Memorial Hospital in Perryville is using all but one of the 24 functions, Southeast is using 20 out of 24, Saint Francis has 16 of 24, Missouri Delta in Sikeston has 12 of 24.
The average among Missouri hospitals was 13.4 of the 24 key functions, according to the Missouri Hospital Association report.
Hospitals say the most difficult parts to implement are computerized physician order entry, or CPOE, functions, which include laboratory and radiology tests, medications, consultation requests and nursing orders.
"CPOE is by far the most complex requirement because it affects so many departments, processes and people," said Aaron Spratt, director of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program implementation at Saint Francis Medical Center.
Jessica Krauss, spokeswoman for Perry County Memorial Hospital, said that function was the most challenging for her facility, too.
"We have hired additional staff, invested in equipment and programs, and invested time and resources to get our physician offices online as well as train them," Krauss said.
SoutheastHEALTH and Perry County Memorial are using electronic records for all CPOE functions, while Missouri Delta is using electronic records for some. Spratt said some of Saint Francis' physician partners are using electronic records for CPOE functions, but not hospital staff. Saint Francis is on schedule to begin doing that in November, Spratt said. By the end of next year, Spratt said Saint Francis will have 23 of the 24 electronic record functions met. The only exception will be physician notes, which will be handled through a later IT initiative, he said.
At SoutheastHEALTH, regional information officer Mike Dozier said both Southeast and the Ripley County hospital it operates will have all 24 areas implemented by fiscal year 2013.
Southeast and Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston partnered to develop the Servir Data Center, which opened earlier this year.
Ripley County has already met the electronic records requirements for Medicare and has already been awarded incentive dollars, Dozier said.
Hospital officials say electronic records will help both their operations and patients.
"Electronic medical records will help our hospitals with the ability to get information quicker and help the people who care for our patients make more informed decisions with the data available," Dozier said.
Spratt said electronic records offer the potential for health care to be safer than ever before, by making it possible to provide such services as alerts about possible treatment interactions.
Cape Girardeau, MO