Hospitals, Offices Advance in Effort to Reduce Paper Usage and Increase Electronic Records

Article excerpt

A number of hospitals and doctors' practices in the country have made a move over the years to change to a paperless system of keeping records.

While paper has not been eliminated at all points in which electronic records are found, paper usage has been reduced.

Officials agree health systems will run smoother and patients will get faster and more efficient care.

Jim Lynch, head of Integris Health's electronic medical records, said Southwest Medical Center has been working at it for eight years.

We actually started in 1997, and at that point we developed a partnership with Cerner to invent the software, Lynch said. Late in 2001, we kicked off a major initiative to take it to an advanced level. It was completed in January, 2004.

Cerner is a Kansas City, Mo.-based company with a pledge to take the paper out of health care. It supplies health care records technology to about 1,500 clients worldwide.

Dr. Dwayne Schmidt said Oklahoma Heart Hospital also has made great strides in going to electronic records.

We are completely electronic with digital images at the Heart Hospital, Schmidt said. We are evolving toward being completely paperless.

The days of having stacks and stacks of manila folders with colorful tags may be numbered.

Officials said the initial costs of going electronic would outweigh the paper process.

As of 2002, 13 percent of hospitals and 28 percent of physicians' practices were at least part electronic. Dictation and transcription are nearly eliminated, which reduces the needs for records employees and saves on room.

The first interest in electronic record keeping is to reduce the likelihood of medication errors, Schmidt said. …