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St. John's May Soon be Rewarded for Implementing Electronic Health Records

St. John’s and its parent organization Sisters of Mercy Health System have been working to implement an electronic health record system for several years. It’s been about four years since the EHR has been up and running, and now the health care system might soon be rewarded for its efforts. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more…

Mercy invested more than $450 million to implement an electronic health records system or EHR. Now, if a St. John’s patient has to go to a different Mercy hospital for treatment, medical staff there will have instant access to their medical records.Under the federal government’s 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, health care providers will receive incentives for not only having an EHR system, but for demonstrating that it has meaningful use to those needing health care. Starting in April, hospitals and providers will have a chance to verify whether or not their EHR meets Stage 1 of the meaningful use standards.Dr. Rick Williams says hospitals will have to show they use their electronic health record to its full capabilities…

"The specific things that we're focusing on in Stage 1 are making sure people's medication lists are accurate and up to date with every visit, making sure people's allergies are accurate and up to date with every visit, making sure their history is collected appropriately, making sure that their problem list--their list of medical problems is updated and appropriate at every visit. It also entails a lot of specific things that need to be done in the front end of the office visit, making sure we have ethnicity and language preference addressed, those kinds of things fully documented in electronic record."

Williams believes St. John’s has met the criteria for Stage 1. Now it’s just a matter of documenting everything…

"We, actually, as a group of physicians, met months ago and came up with a chart etiquette task force, and many of the things we recommended are things that have come true in the meaningful use, so we were already anticipating these kinds of things before they ever came to fruition."

St. John’s patients have web access to their medical records and more thru a site called MyMercy which he says also puts the health system in good standing for meaningful use.If Mercy meets the standards, it could mean an estimated $140 million for the health care system over the next four to six years, and St. John’s and its physician offices would receive a share of the money. But Dr. Williams says he’s not focusing on the money…

"I don't think we should be in it for the money, we should be in it to make sure we're taking the best care possible of our patients, and that's what using electronic health record appropriately does."

According to Dr. Williams, while the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will provide incentives at first for those who can show meaningful use, eventually, hospitals will suffer financial penalties for not implementing EHR’s. Dr. Williams believes the high tech stimulus package—part of the federal bill that will provide the incentives for meaningful use—will push hospitals to implement electronic health record systems sooner than they would have otherwise.