On the Record
With Providence's new Epic Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system, patients can expect more efficiency - and even better care.
by Stephanie Conner
When an elderly woman who’s allergic to a medication is unable to express herself during a medical emergency, instant access to her health record can help doctors avoid a potentially fatal error.
For a cancer patient who wants a second opinion but doesn’t feel well enough to track down all his medical records, an electronic record is a serious timesaver.
Many of us have experienced these types of frustrating, or even dangerous, situations because key health information wasn’t shared among medical providers. To help improve the efficiency and quality of care for patients, Providence Health & Services is implementing an electronic health record system at all its facilities across five states. The new system, called Epic, has launched here in Eastern Washington, beginning with Providence Medical Group clinics. Hospitals, including Sacred Heart and Holy Family in Spokane, make the switch this fall.
Every time a patient sees different doctors or travels between a clinic and the hospital, an e-record helps ensure accuracy. “You begin to eliminate errors because the information isn’t being physically rewritten,” says Sherry Maughan, RN, Epic deployment director for Providence.
“As a health care delivery system, we wanted to create standardization and to build on best practices,” Maughan says, “which provides consistency for our patients. So, if you live in Spokane and visit your sister in Missoula, and have to go the emergency department there, you’ll get the same experience at the Providence hospital in Missoula as you’re used to in Spokane.”
Providence sees this new electronic system as an opportunity to further its vision “to answer the call of every person we serve, to: Know Me, Care for Me, Ease My Way.” Here’s how Epic will improve the care you receive.
You want to feel confident that your doctor and your health system know you—your medical history, your medications, your allergies, your risk factors, your concerns.
Epic is designed to make sure this health history is not only documented but available to all your Providence providers.
“Every time you write something down again, there’s a chance you’ll make a mistake,” Maughan says. “There are a lot of abbreviations out there, and it’s hard to assure that records are legible and that everything is time-stamped. Using an electronic system like Epic addresses those kinds of challenges.”
This means that doctors and patients can make better, more informed decisions, adds Jeff Collins, MD, chief medical executive for Providence Health Care.
“Because the system knows each patient,” he says, “it will also reduce medication errors and other complications that occur in the absence of information.”
All of this leads to “improved precision and accuracy of diagnoses,” Dr. Collins adds. “And it will help with overall efficiency—maybe even a reduced number of visits to the doctor.”
Care For Me
“It’s undeniable that the advances of medical care over the last several decades provide many benefits. But health care has also become much more complicated,” Dr. Collins says. “A Medicare patient might see five or six specialists in a year. And unless those doctors are part of the same clinic, there’s often little coordination, which contributes to the fragmentation of care.”
That might mean that doctors don’t know what tests already have been ordered by another provider, resulting in unnecessary duplication, he adds.
The availability of information about your health history may also lead to different diagnoses and treatments, Maughan adds. She gives this example: A patient arrives in the emergency department with a punctured lung as the result of an accident.
“Now, let’s say that person had pneumonia 10 times in her life and was a heavy smoker,” Maughan says. “If we had access to her records, the critical thinking around the treatment might be totally different.”
Dr. Collins adds that Epic will allow for data collection across the Providence system. “As a system, we can look at patterns so we can find efficiencies and gaps in evidencebased medicine,” he says. “If we know the best practice for a particular circumstance is ABC, then we can make sure that all of our patients in that circumstance are getting the right care. For example, are all women over 40 getting mammograms? Or are all heart disease patients on a statin [heart medication] as they should be?”
Ease My Way
Epic isn’t just for Providence patients. The system will allow non-Providence providers who use Epic in their offices to share data as well.
Plus, patients at Providence Medical Group clinics will have access to their own records, through a service called “My Chart,” Dr. Collins says. That means being able to see your test results and access educational resources. “You can also ask questions, request a refill or make an appointment,” he adds.
This free 24/7 online access to My Chart will make it easier for you to communicate with your health care providers and get the care you need.
“Epic helps doctors and nurses as well. As they get to know the system, their work will be much easier and they’ll benefit from reduced duplication in charting,” Maughan says.
Improved charting ultimately means caregivers spend more time with their patients, which eases the way for healing. But, Dr. Collins cautions, Epic isn’t a panacea.
“It’s a powerful instrument, but it’s still just a tool,” he says. “The real power is the personal interaction between the patient and the care team.”
Access Your Records with MyChart
MyChart is a web portal to Epic that patients of Providence clinics can use to access their health records online. Whether at work, on the go, or at home, patients have access many great features!
View medical information online
- Review medications, immunizations, allergies, and medical history.
- Receive test results online—no waiting for a phone call or letter.
- Review health education topics and discharge instructions provided by their physician.
Stay in touch with their physician’s office.
- Communicating with your physician is as simple as sending an e-mail—but even more secure.
- Request renewals of your medications online.
- Schedule their appointments online.
- View details of past and upcoming appointments.
Access family members’ records
- Family accounts can be linked together to allow for convenient access to appointments, immunization records, growth charts and more.
Providence takes protecting patients’ health information and their privacy seriously. We use the latest security practices and safeguards to protect health care information. MyChart is password-protected and delivered via an encrypted connection.