OKLAHOMA CITY – June 9 was a big day at Mercy metro hospitals. Some may even call it epic. Mercy’s electronic health record (EHR), called Epic, launched Saturday, adding El Reno and Logan County to the network of 24 hospitals and countless Mercy clinics on the system.
“We’ve been training a long time for this,” said Doug Danker, administrator of Mercy Hospital El Reno. “And we can already see how this system is going to make the lives of our patients and our providers easier. The biggest change we see is we’ll be using a lot less paper, so charts are easier to keep track of and we’re being environmentally friendly.”
The advantages go on and on – less paper, no sloppy handwriting, no waiting for records to be transported. Mercy Clinic doctors, nurses, practitioners and specialists will have immediate access to patient records from every nurses’ station, exam room and doctor’s office across the four states Mercy currently serves: Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
It’s full of advantages for patients, too. Next time a doctor asks a patient when the last time she had her cholesterol levels checked, she doesn’t have to wrack her memory trying to come up with an accurate answer. The doctor can pull up the patient’s electronic medical record, look at the patient’s history of tests and decide whether it’s time for another test, or not. This could potentially save patients the cost, time and anxiety of going through redundant testing.
Another advantage is communication. Mercy Clinic doctors are informed when their patients have appointments with other Mercy Clinic specialists, or visit any Mercy urgent care facility or emergency room. That means primary care providers can perform the follow-ups necessary after unexpected medical visits.
Plus, as EHR continues to roll out, patients will have access to their medical records, and the records of their kids and other people whose health they manage, using MyMercy. This patient portal to the electronic health record allows patients to schedule appointments with their physician, communicate via private two-way messaging with their care team, see lab results in a timely manner, request prescription refills, pay bills online and in some cases conduct e-visits – virtual medical consultations being piloted at Mercy. More than 200,000 patients are enrolled in MyMercy.
It’s a big learning curve for co-workers, but Mercy has been implementing EHR for nearly a decade. Co-workers in El Reno and Logan County have been training for eight weeks. For two weeks starting Saturday, 90 co-workers from other Mercy locations who are experienced with EHR will take turns travelling to both hospitals to support staff during the switch.
“I’m really proud of the way our co-workers are embracing this new technology,” said Josh Tucker, administrator of Mercy Hospital Logan County. “Our top priority is always to care for our patients the best way possible – EHR helps us do that. Now we can easily see all of the patient’s medications, allergies and lab results. Since all of this information is right there in their EHR, our physicians can readily access this to ensure we are prescribing the best choice of treatment for our patients.”
A federally mandated electronic conversion of patients’ health records was instituted in 2009, but Mercy was ahead of the curve, beginning the transition in 2004 with a $450 million investment.
Electronic health records for all 3 million patients served per year at Mercy are safe in the Mercy Data Center. Known as the “Fort Knox of Data Storage,” the $60 million, high-tech data center – built to withstand tornado-force winds and constructed in an area removed from earthquake fault lines – sits on a bedrock foundation in Washington, Mo., and has access to alternate sources of power. It’s capable of transferring the entire contents of the Library of Congress in less than 6.5 seconds.
Such forward thinking has gained Mercy national attention, like being named Health Care’s “Most Wired” by the American Hospital Association in 2011, an honor recognizing hospitals for adoption, implementation and use of information technology.
Mercy CEO Lynn Britton was in 2012 honored with the CEO IT Achievement Award – an award bestowed annually to only three health care leaders in the U.S. More than 60 health care leaders were nominated for the award, co-sponsored by Modern Healthcare magazine and the Health Information and Management Systems Society, which recognizes CEOs who demonstrate a commitment to using IT to advance their organizations’ goals.
Mercy is the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves more than 3 million people annually. Mercy includes 31 hospitals, more than 200 outpatient facilities, 38,000 co-workers and 1,600 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. For more about Mercy, visit www.mercy.net.