July 14, 2011

Initiative to boost use of electronic medical records

Initiative to boost use of electronic medical records

As a national leader in the development and implementation of health care information technology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center is proactively aligning with federal mandates for providers to adopt more comprehensive uses of electronic medical records.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 is a $787 billion economic stimulus bill that includes $25.8 billion for health information technology, including incentive payments for providers and hospitals that demonstrate “meaningful use” of standardized electronic medical records to achieve improvements in the delivery of health care while also lowering the cost of the delivery of care.

Though VUMC has long had a variety of information technology tools in place, not all providers consistently use these tools in their daily practice.

The move toward universal adoption will have many benefits:

• Improving patient care via documentation standards and built-in safety and quality checks;
• Enhancing teamwork and communication among providers;

• Improving capabilities to collect more comprehensive data about the delivery of care and outcomes; and

• Ensuring VUMC’s reputation as a national leader in information technology.

“Although there are associated financial incentives, our true motive for adoption is doing the right thing for our patients,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and CEO of the Vanderbilt Health System. “With all the information in patients’ electronic medical records, and all our providers consistently updating and using these records, we will be able to offer our patients an even greater level of care.”

“Our Department of Biomedical Informatics is the finest in the nation,” added Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “Through the long-held tradition of collaboration between our software engineers and clinical providers, we have the national reputation as leaders in the area of health care information technology development and implementation.

“We intend to further our leadership, while responding to our patients, who are unequivocal in their belief that their clinicians should be able to access and update all of their health care information — anytime, anywhere,” Balser said.

The effort begins Oct. 1, when VUMC will undergo a certification process which, when complete, will indicate legacy information technology tools, such as StarPanel, meet standardized federal requirements for electronic medical records. StarPanel currently lacks some elements, but software updates are rapidly under way and pilot protocols are in progress in the Adult Primary Care Center and the Heart & Vascular Institute to test these modifications before broader roll-out.

After technology certification, the next step will be the process of demonstrating “meaningful use” – leveraging the technology to measurably improve patient care.

Providers will have to demonstrate consistent use of 20 standards. Examples include:

• Collecting ethnicity data, in addition to age and gender;

• Taking a more detailed history about a patient’s smoking status;

• Updating medication, allergy and problem lists at the end of each visit;

• Using RxStar, VUMC’s self-developed e-prescribing software, to write prescriptions and then transmit electronically to pharmacies; and

• Providing clinical summaries to patients within 72 hours of their visit.
Cohorts of eligible providers, defined as those providers who bill Medicare for services, will receive one month of training and then undergo three months of evaluation.

“While this will certainly change a provider’s workflow, we are working on making the experience seamless, including faster log-in and loading times, fewer clicks and other enhancements to the user interface,” said Bill Stead, M.D., associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs and chief Strategy and Information officer.

For more information, see VUMC’s project website at http://projects/PWA/ARRA_HITECH_EHR/default.aspx (employee login required).