KINGFISHER, Okla. (June 20, 2014) – June 1 was a big day at Mercy Hospital Kingfisher. After months of training, planning and preparation, co-workers launched Mercy’s electronic health record (EHR), called Epic, and its apparel program, called M-Wear.
This means Mercy Hospital Kingfisher has access to the network of 30 Mercy hospitals and countless Mercy clinics on the system.
“We’ve been preparing for this and we’re ready,” said Brian Denton, administrator of Mercy Hospital Kingfisher. “We can already see how this system is going to make the lives of our patients and our co-workers easier in the long-run. 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 misread 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 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 a decade. Co-workers in Kingfisher 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 Denton. “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 immediately available, 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 the millions of 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.
While the electronic health record is streamlining health care management for patients and co-workers behind the scenes, the appearance of co-workers may be the more noticeable immediate change taking place this month.
“Our goal is to provide an experience of familiarity by being consistent in our work,” said Becky Payton, regional president of human resources for Mercy in Oklahoma. “People feel better when they know what to expect. When they come into our hospital or our clinics, we want them to feel comforted, calm, secure and confident in the Mercy co-workers taking care of them.”
That’s why for the last few years, in the middle of tremendous growth for Mercy, the Mercy Experience Team – a group of Mercy co-workers who coordinate advisory groups, one-on-one interviews and other research so Mercy decisions are made with the voice of the patient, the co-worker and the community member in mind – has been devoted to researching then creating environments, processes and a culture that make Mercy patients feel more comfortable, whether they’re in Kingfisher, El Reno, Marietta, Ardmore or Oklahoma City.
Their research has impacted the design of Mercy buildings, the support classes offered, the processes followed and the commercials aired. And now, the uniforms co-workers wear.
“This isn’t a decision that was taken lightly or made quickly,” said Becky Payton, regional president of human resources for Mercy in Oklahoma. “Our team has been committed to developing an apparel program for years, and we’ve been listening to what co-workers and patients want the whole time.”
One of the ways they’ve listened was via Baggot Street, Mercy’s intranet (named for the street the original House of Mercy was established on in Dublin, Ireland). Co-workers from across all four states Mercy serves gave input on the kinds of pockets, clasps, colors, fabrics and styles they preferred in work apparel.
After months of studies, photo shoots, presentations and start-overs, Mercy chose scrubs with a base color of black, accented by vibrant colors of the new Mercy logo which each co-worker chooses for him or herself.
In one focus group, a co-worker said, “I’m one of those people who wants to express who I am, and I could do that with this collection.”
To get all existing Mercy co-workers suited up and ready for this new look, Mercy provided an allowance to get their uniform wardrobe established. Additional sets of scrubs will be purchased by co-workers, just as non-uniform scrubs are currently purchased. The Mercy scrubs, known internally as “M-Wear” will be available for purchase at 25 percent less than retail prices for the same brand scrubs.
Mercy co-workers say the scrubs are comfortable, have lots of pockets for the various tools they use throughout the day, and give a unified appearance.
“They’re super comfy,” said Catti Willenborg, CNA, who has worked at Mercy for two years. “We look professional, too. That’s important to the co-workers.”
Mercy Hospital Kingfisher co-workers have been preparing for their new look for months. They were the first in the four-state health ministry to order their M-Wear online, using a new tool meant to simplify the ordering process.
Mercy is the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves millions of people annually. Mercy includes 32 acute care hospitals, four heart hospitals, two children’s hospitals, three rehab hospitals and one orthopedic hospital, nearly 700 clinic and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,100 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.