This spring, The Brooklyn Hospital Center began implementing a comprehensive Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system that will make patient care an almost entirely paperless process.
In fact, the only printed material most patients and their caregivers will interact with will be the plastic, barcode-printed ID bracelet worn by patients throughout their stay.
“Throughout the year we’ll be transitioning from a hand-written system into a far more standardized, electronic approach to record keeping,” said Paul Albertson, the Center’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.
From admission to discharge, all data related to patient care such as medical history, allergies, test orders and results, assessments, and progress notes will be collected through a single computer interface rather than a paper file or one of the many stand-alone computer systems long in use throughout the Center.
According to Albertson, using a single electronic portal to track patient care is becoming an essential component of twenty-first century medicine. “Lengths of stay in hospitals have gotten dramatically shorter in the past two decades—which is good news—but in this more concentrated space of time patients often have a lot more testing done, receive a wider variety of medications, and undergo far more complicated interventions.”
And they will see many more caregivers, perhaps as many as a hundred throughout their in-patient stay, including specialists, residents, nurses and other healthcare associates across all three shifts.
“What you end up with are lots of ‘hand offs’ from one caregiver to another,” said Albertson. “With so many individuals looking at different aspects of the patient’s health, a vital piece of information might get lost or misinterpreted.”
It’s a common complaint heard throughout America’s hospitals—the more medical science and technology have advanced, the more specialists and sub-specialists are required, many of whom may speak with a unique vocabulary and point-of-view.
But this Tower of Babel scenario can be greatly mitigated when a single electronic record is used for patient data collection. With EMR, previously unconnected pieces of information can be viewed as an organic whole.
This means safer, more comfortable, healthier patients.
It also translates into happier, less anxious patients. When records are kept electronically, both nurses and doctors spend less time with the chart and more time at the bedside. Patients tend to pick up on this quickly and appreciate it. They feel more empowered because they’re better informed.
The same holds true for the caregivers themselves, who through EMR have the tools to understand how they’re performing against nationally accepted benchmarks, such as the twenty-five metrics of care identified by Medicare.
“Patients benefit when everyone who has contact with patients feels personally responsible for their welfare,” said Dr. Lisandro Irizarry, chairman of Emergency Medicine. “EMR systems like the one we’re introducing make it crystal clear whether or not Best Practice standards are being met, both on an individual and department level. That’s when things get really exciting, because now you have clear, well defined goals for improving quality of care, not just a vague mandate to improve.”
But improving care is not the only benefit of EMR. It also contributes to The Brooklyn Hospital Center’s goal of serving all residents of Brooklyn and greater New York, in whatever hospital, clinic or physician’s office they happen to be treated.
Vice president of information systems Irene Farrelly said, “Our EMR system will be highly interoperable, which means the data we collect will be shared with other EMR systems as patients move through various treatment venues.”
Free flowing communication among the wider community of physicians is especially critical given the nature of the Center’s catchment area. Many residents either are elderly or don’t speak English as a first language, which increases the likelihood of miscommunication. EMR reduces risk because it remembers everything for you.
According to Paul Albertson, “It’s a high-tech example of what our organizational motto Keeping Brooklyn healthy is all about.”