Mercy Hospital Fort Smith is one of 159 medical centers that was named on the U.S. News & World Report’s roster for Most Connected Hospitals 2015-2016. Mercy was the only medical center in Arkansas recognized for their commitment to the use of digital technology in health care.
To be considered for Most Connected Hospital status, a hospital had to register a high score based on its responses to a survey and had to be among the 910 facilities recognized by U.S. News as nationally ranked or rated as high performing in 2015-16 in Best Hospitals (for complex care), Best Hospitals for Common Care or Best Children’s Hospitals. Mercy Hospital Fort Smith met national high performing standards for U.S. News & World Report’s Best Regional Hospitals in Arkansas, which qualified them for the ranking.
Mercy keeps medical providers and patients connected in a number of ways but it all starts with Mercy’s electronic health record. Mercy Hospital Fort Smith President Ryan Gehrig said this technology puts information at the caregiver’s fingertips, making a patient’s medicine, health history and previous treatments readily available at every place care is provided.
“Mercy is proud to be part of a small percentage of health care organizations in the United States who are effectively using a comprehensive integrated electronic system to help care for our patients,” Gehrig said. “Our doctors can easily see if you are up-to-date on your immunizations or are due for a preventative diagnostic test, such as a mammogram or prostate exam. If you are a patient with Mercy, this technology connects your primary care doctor with the ER nurse who may have treated you over the weekend and even the specialist you followed up with after your emergency visit. All of this information is available to the caregiver in real time so we can more quickly and effectively care for the needs of our patients.”
Mercy also offers MyMercy, which puts a patient’s electronic health record in their own hands. The online service allows patients to connect with their care team and manage their health care anytime. With MyMercy, patients can make an e-visit when an office visit isn’t possible, schedule doctor’s appointments, see lab and test results, manage medications and refill prescriptions, view medical records, pay bills online and much more.
In addition to clinical connectedness and patient engagement, U.S. News also considered patient safety when naming the Most Connected Hospitals 2015-2016. Mercy has a number of safety processes in place, but Mercy’s technological advancements have come a long way in ensuring patient’s needs are always under the watchful eye of their care team.
With Mercy’s SafeWatch program, specially trained critical care physicians called “intensivists” and experienced ICU nurses can provide around-the-clock remote support to patients’ doctors and the bedside care team. By using computers, in-room cameras and audio connections, Mercy is able to perform automated monitoring, transmission and trending of vital signs so small changes in condition can be detected faster, resulting in quicker interventions reduced medical complications and often shorter ICU stays.
Mercy’s SafeWatch program can also extend to patients across the River Valley in need of specialized care. Mercy Clinic President Cole Goodman, MD, said area clinics are equipped with SafeWatch technology so in the future patients can receive care from specialty physicians outside of their geographic area.
“Many of our patients live in rural areas and need specialized care close to home,” Goodman said. “With Mercy’s SafeWatch program, a patient can potentially walk into their local clinic and visit with their physician, who may practice in St. Louis or Springfield, and receive the care they need. Where a patient lives shouldn’t affect the quality of care they receive or limit the variety of medical services they are offered. We are taking patient care beyond the physician’s office and hospital room so everyone gets the kind of care they deserve.”
In October, Mercy opened a four-story, 125,000-square-foot Virtual Care Center – the world’s first. The facility, located in Chesterfield, Mo., not only houses the nation’s largest single-hub electronic intensive care unit, but also provides a center for telemedicine innovation and a testing ground for new health care products and services. Mercy will enable some of the nation’s best providers to use technology to deliver care to patients 24/7/365 when and where they need it.