September 30, 2010

New StarPanel tool eases provider communications

New StarPanel tool eases provider communications

StarPanel, Vanderbilt Medical Group's electronic medical records and clinic workflow system, was upgraded today with a new tool, called docs4u, that makes patient follow-up communication documents between Vanderbilt providers entirely electronic.

The upgrade is part of wide ranging efforts at Vanderbilt University Medical Center to improve the safety of patient handoffs, whether between inpatient units, between VMG doctors in separate clinics, or between VMG and community providers.

Docs4u is connected with a StarPanel tool introduced in February called the provider communication wizard. The wizard is used by specialists to send out clinical notes and associated documents to referring providers by automated fax or mail. Until now, when the referring provider has been a fellow VMG member, follow-up documents sent through the wizard have gone out by fax, causing unwanted paper to pile up in the inboxes of VMG referring providers.

With docs4u, this communication is entirely electronic and paperless; when the referring/primary care doctor is a VMG member, follow-up documents sent through the wizard go straight to docs4u. (The docs4u icon appears atop the user's main screen in StarPanel as documents arrive.)

Specialists have been asked to use the provider communication wizard exclusively when they follow up with patients' referring physicians and primary care doctors.

“Our goal is to have the provider communication wizard become the single way, by policy, that we communicate with referring providers,” said Jim Jirjis, M.D., MBA, chief medical information officer and medical director of Adult Primary Care.

“It is the only way to ensure that we are performing reliably in our communications to our valued referring provider base.”

Once all VMG providers have begun using the wizard, the group will have continuous data on how consistent its specialists are at follow-up communication.

Currently when a patient visits a VMG clinic, the wizard gets used afterward only about one-third of the time.

“The wizard is huge for the staff and doctors here because it's very efficient and it reminds people of who needs to be communicated with. And it's huge for the docs in the referring provider community because they get much more reliable, responsive communication,” Jirjis said.

VMG providers seeking more information about docs4u can contact their clinic's electronic medical records specialist.