5:37am

Tue May 27, 2014
Health

Syracuse hospitals invest in electronic medical records systems

Electronic medical records are becoming the norm at Syracuse-area hospitals. St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center and SUNY Upstate Medical University each took milestone steps this month into the digital world.

Hospital staff and patients at the Golisano Children’s Hospital have been using a computerized software system to track medical records since March. With Upstate’s Community Campus coming on board earlier this month, the teaching hospital in Syracuse now has fully implemented an electronic medical records system in all phases of care, according to hospital CEO John McCabe.

"Some of that is driven by our sense that it’s been driven by the sense that it’s better care, some of it has recently been driven by the federal government being willing to help with payments to get us there and in the future penalize us if we’re not there," McCabe said.

He says there are many benefits to sharing records electronically.

“It’s better care, it’s a more efficient use of providers, doctors, nurses," McCabe said. "And there’s also the issue it’s safer care, because the computer can help us prioritize care, send us reminders, stop us when we are doing something that doesn’t make sense. Stop us when we’ve put in that there’s an allergy and we’re about to give someone something they’re allergic to. Those are just some of the benefits we’re beginning to realize.”

St. Joe’s hospital in Syracuse also jumped feet first into the electronic medical records world this month. Dozens of tech savvy employees have been working out of a special SJ Linked Center to help work out any bugs with the electronic medical records site. Joe’s SJ Linked director Jamie Nicolosi says patients will see a difference due to this digital connectedness.

"If a patient comes into one of our physician's offices and needs to be treated, gets sent to the emergency room, and then gets admitted, we have that information instantaneously from their primary care provider, versus having to wait to make decisions and having to hang out in the E.D. (emergency department),” Nicolosi said.

Nicolosi says among other things, this can eliminate potential mistakes.

“If we go to administer medication, that nurse is scanning your bracelet, scanning the medication so that dose is exactly right and we have your history in the system to make sure it’s not conflicting with anything," Nicolosi explained. "So that’s one case that we’re going to know immediately if we have to call the physician or the pharmacist to verify something.”

The other half of this digitized world is patient access to records. Both hospitals offer computer access through apps that allow patients to track their own care, as well as communicate with physicians electronically.

And Nicolosi says it’s not just patients who need access to medical records and appointments.

“If my parents are older and I’m caring for them and I live out of state, I may have proxy and want to sign in and coordinate care for that," Nicolosi said.

The changeover isn’t cheap. Upstate has invested $70 million in creating this digital world. McCabe says it’s worth it though.

"I think in the long run this is a transformation in how we do medical care and how we collect information and protect our patients," McCabe said. "Just the quality and safety spin-off’s over time are well worth the investment now."

A spokesman for Crouse Hospital says they have a patient portal up and running with more features to be added.

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