Patent News | "One patient, one record for Cone Health facilities"

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Category : Patent News 

GREENSBORO — Imagine clicking on a link and accessing your patient records from your home computer.

Or your doctors logging on and viewing every blood test you took last year.

Hospitals and doctors are investing millions in electronic health record systems that share sensitive information beyond a hospital’s walls.

Cone Health is spending $120 million on its electronic records project — more than half what it’s paying to build Moses Cone’s North Tower emergency room expansion.

On Tuesday, Cone brought online 25 of its affiliated physician offices. Cone’s hospitals should be on the system in July. “The big benefit ... is one patient, one record,” said Steve Shanaberger, director of radiology for Cone Health.

The medical community has dabbled with computerized records for years. Some doctors bring smartphones or tablets into exam rooms to show patients X-rays or pictures from surgeries.

What’s new about Cone’s project — and those at other hospitals — is its comprehensiveness.

“It will reinvent the way we communicate with patients and physicians alike and enhance our ability to provide leading-edge health care,” said John McCullough, associate vice president of clinical applications at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

Eventually, patients will have computer access, referred to as “patient portals.” How that information is presented — and how much each patient is allowed to see — will vary from hospital to hospital.

“The only thing I can figure is that it will be like logging into Facebook,” said Karen Harris, information technology manager at High Point Regional Hospital , whose background is in nursing.

“Somehow it’s got to know 'I’m me, and that’s my record.’ ”

The federal government is offering stimulus money and incentives to health care providers that embrace the technology by 2015. There are penalties for those who do not switch to computerized systems as the government looks for ways to lower health care costs and increase patient safety.

Some of these systems, for example, use software that allows nurses to scan a patient’s wrist ban and scan medicine the patient will receive. The computer will make sure the person is supposed to get that medication at that time.

If someone scans the wrong patient or the wrong medication, the computer flashes an alert.

“This is all about pushing the health care delivery system in the same direction so we are interoperable and provide better, cheaper care,” said Mark Bell, vice president for health information technology with the N.C. Hospital Association.

The information will become part of a computer exchange — for example, a doctor treating a patient in another part of the country could access those medical records with the patient’s permission.

“If the patient has had a CT scan at Wake Forest and I don’t have that information and the patient is not able to tell me, there is a very good chance I would order a CT scan, too,” said Dr. Bruce Swords, an internist and chief medical information officer at Cone Health.

“That would be a waste of money and (make) the patient exposed to more radiation than he or she needed to be.”

Cone is using the same vendor as Wake Forest and Duke Medical Center.

“If I have notes and opinions, it is much better than me trying to glean that information from the patient or sending a medical release to Wake Forest and waiting for a week to get it back,” Swords said.

Cone Health started with a gradual rollout of the system in February.

Some hospitals allow practices that are unaffiliated to tap in. Cone is charging a $3,000 upfront fee per provider plus $300 monthly .

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