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Friday, October 3, 2014 12:00 AM

Medical records flow instantly and securely, improving care

Innovation & Technology

Community Medical Centers is a hub for the expanded use and interconnectivity of electronic medical records in the Central San Joaquin Valley.

When more than 240,000 Fresno-area residents visit their primary care and specialty physicians, their electronic health records are available through a Community clinical information system called Epic. The same Epic electronic records also track the 650,000 visits made annually by patients to Community’s hospitals, clinics and imaging centers.

And Community is partnering with more than a dozen health organizations across four Valley counties to allow electronic patient records to be securely shared even if the providers use different computer systems.

A nurse in Community Regional’s emergency room uses a workstation on wheels while getting a patient’s medical history.

It’s proved an asset to Dr. Marty Martin of the Peachwood Medical Group in Clovis. “I used to get patients that were told to schedule a follow-up visit with me, but I wouldn’t have any information on their ER visit other than what they could tell me,” he said. “Now, I get a notice within Epic if one of my patient’s visits a Community hospital, so I can go into the system and view the note to see what the problem is.”

Community’s staff uses the system to record care notes on patients 96% of the time – three times the national standard – and uses Epic to order medications electronically 96% of the time – 60% more than the national standard. The federal government has encouraged hospitals and physicians to use electronic record systems to increase medical safety and coordinate care better.

Community’s Epic system is the kind of technology used by some of the nation’s top health systems, including Stanford University Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic. It allows access to vital medical records – health history, medications, X-ray reports, lab results – in a single, secure electronic location. It’s now being used by more than 6,000 clinicians and 750 physicians at all Community hospitals and clinics, and is being brought to more private physician practices.

This patient-centered system can be brought to bedsides using “workstations on wheels.” It has documented reductions in patient length of hospital stay, reduced medication complications, enhanced coordination of care and smoothed the gathering and reporting of quality measurements.

Community also offers “My Chart,” which allows patients access to their health records in the Epic system via computer or mobile device. 

Community has earned honors from Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society for reaching a level of electronic medical records implementation that only 14% of U.S. hospitals have achieved.

And Community has helped establish the nonprofit Central Valley Health Information Exchange, a partnership of hospitals, clinics and physicians in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties that aims to securely share electronic patient health records across different computer systems.

“This valuable collaboration, which eventually will be part of a statewide linkage, will bring more key patient data to providers to support their patient care decisions, patient safety and the timeliness of treatment,” said Jamie Franklin, Community’s chief project management officer. Under the sponsorship of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California, the exchange will be implemented in phases beginning in late 2014.

John Taylor reported this story. Reach him at MedWatchToday@CommunityMedical.org.