Electronic Medical Records Streamline Patient Care

Article excerpt

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the congressional overhaul of the nation's health care system passed in 2009. One component of the legislation mandates that patient records be converted into electronic form beginning this year. Not all health care providers in the state use this system, but some began the transition years before the law was passed.

Mercy, a health care system with facilities in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri, began its transition to electronic medical records in 2004, said Jim Best, chief of business alignment with the company.

"Our goal was quality of care and patient safety, and having a 'one patient, one record' system for providers gives patients portability from physician to physician," he said.

That also ensures that patients have all records intact regardless of which Mercy facility they visit, Best said.

The five-year roll-out plan was budgeted at $450 million, but the actual cost was significantly less than that, Best said. The electronic records system implementation began in 2006 and now 22 of the system's 31 hospitals use electronic medical records, he said.

Safety is another benefit of electronic records, Best said: Illegible handwriting is no longer an issue. …