This is a big week at Mercy Hospital Watonga. Some may even call it epic. Mercy’s electronic health record (EHR), called Epic, launches connecting the hospital to 31 other Mercy hospitals, and nearly 2,000 providers and specialists across four states.
“We’ve been preparing for this and we can already see how this system is going to make managing health easier for our patients,” said Bobby Stitt, administrator of Mercy Hospital Watonga. “And it means patients in Watonga – who may not have local access to medical specialists they need – benefit from the input and experience of those specialists in other places like St. Louis, Springfield and Oklahoma City.”
If a Mercy Hospital Watonga doctor needs a second opinion, he can call on any of the 1,900 providers across Mercy to help. With Epic, those Mercy specialists have immediate access to the patient’s medical history, test results and physician notes.
The advantages go on and on – better access to specialists, less paper to store and manage, no sloppy handwriting to misread, no waiting for records to be transported from a lab to a doctor. 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 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, potentially saving patients the cost, time and anxiety of going through redundant testing.
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 urgent medical visits.
Plus, as EHR continues to roll out in Watonga, 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 jiffy, request prescription renewals and pay bills online from any computer or Internet-ready mobile device. More than 200,000 patients today 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 Watonga have been training for eight weeks. Co-workers have been learning every aspect of the Epic system such as: registration, patient scheduling, procedure documentation for lab and radiology, nursing and physician documentation in the medical record, medication administration and charting. Even co-workers in finance and medical records require specialized training on this system. For two weeks starting July 1, 90 co-workers from other Mercy locations who are experienced with Epic EHR will take turns traveling to Watonga to support staff during the switch.
“This is a big change in the way we’re doing things, so it’s a challenge,” said Stitt. “But I’ve been really impressed with how quickly our co-workers have picked it up. We know it’s a worthwhile effort, and we’re excited to be a part of this change. We’re making health care history.”
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. For more about the Mercy Data Center, click here.
Such forward thinking has gained Mercy national attention, like being named Health Care’s “Most Wired” by the American Hospital Association in 2012, an honor recognizing hospitals for adoption, implementation and use of information technology. Mercy CEO Lynn Britton was honored in 2012 with the CEO IT Achievement Award – an award bestowed annually to only three health care leaders in the U.S.
For more about Mercy Technology Services, click here.
Mercy is the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves more than 3 million people annually. Mercy includes 32 hospitals, more than 300 outpatient facilities, 39,000 co-workers and 1,900 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.