Following is a guest post from Dan Pelino:
Health care reform is dominating conversations around the country…including heated discussions around many kitchen tables. I heard a lot of it during my trip this week to Cincinnati, where I met with health care providers and pharmacy benefits management companies.
Amidst the heated debate in Washington, President Obama’s vow to provide every patient with an electronic medical record by 2014 may seem like a distant memory. But it’s very much a reality at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, which operates six hospitals throughout Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare is building Kentucky’s largest electronic medical records project, connecting dozens of hospitals, clinics and physician offices. Digital files will replace a warehouse full of paper-based records on more than 50,000 patients, and real-time digitized information will help deliver better care to thousands of patients.
It all began when St. Elizabeth acquired St. Luke’s Hospitals in Kentucky last year, long before the current administration arrived in Washington, D.C. Both hospital systems had self-contained medical records that didn’t connect with other medical providers. The merger gave this healthcare system the opportunity to look at their situation with fresh eyes and develop a system to help its doctors, nurses, pharmacists and technicians work smarter and in a more connected fashion.
This September St. Elizabeth Healthcare is rolling out the system in doctor’s offices, and then to clinics and ambulatory care sites — including six hospitals, nearly 1,000 physicians, 31 primary care doctor’s offices and four imaging centers and clinics.
Whether a patient visits a doctor’s office, an acute care hospital, or an ER, all health care professionals will have an instant, total view of the patient to coordinate care across an extended team. It will also lead to greater transparency for patients. They’ll be able to access their digital medical records and see lab results, schedule appointments and get referrals online. Doctors and nurses will be able to see real-time patient information, EKGs, x-rays, scans and prescriptions, leading to better care with fewer errors.
Digital records lead to better care at lower cost, but St. Elizabeth’s is hardly in the majority. A mere 1.5 percent of hospital systems in the U.S. have a comprehensive electronic records systems. Only about one-sixth of the population in the US is covered by an electronic health record. But more than 12 percent of the people in Northern Kentucky and the greater Cincinnati area will have electronic medical records when the St. Elizabeth’s project is completed next year. That’s smarter health care.
Dan Pelino is general manager of IBM’s Healthcare & Life Sciences business.