Raiter Clinic jumps on the technology fast trackAfter a month-long transition of both its medical records and business office computer system, Cloquet’s Raiter Clinic is “back to normal,” said John Turonie, clinic administrator.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
After a month-long transition of both its medical records and business office computer system, Cloquet’s Raiter Clinic is “back to normal,” said John Turonie, clinic administrator.
During December the clinic was only taking about half its normal number of appointments so staff would have the time needed to adapt to the transition. To help people who couldn’t get appointments, Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) – located across the street from the clinic – opened its Urgent Care all day rather than starting at 5 p.m.
The change from paper to electronic health records (EHR) will be ongoing, Turonie explained.
“If you come in for an appointment and you haven’t been here since we made the switch, the doctor’s nurse and the doctor will take extra time to put in the relevant history, such as your most recent visits and lab results,” he said. “After you leave, the doctor may flag additional notes to be scanned in.”
Rather than hiring a fleet of medical transcribers to convert each one of the estimated 70,000 files in the Raiter Clinic medical records repository, the changeover is a gradual process, to be completed as patients come into the clinic. If a patient doesn’t come until 2015, he or she will be greeted by his or her paper file. And the clinic isn’t getting rid of that paper file, even after the recent data has been entered into the new electronic system.
“The charts will always be there,” Turonie said, noting that the paper files are stored on site. “A doctor can just call medical records and ask for so-and-so’s chart.”
Raiter Clinic isn’t alone in making the transition. Four-fifths of the nation’s hospitals, and 41 percent of office-based physicians, currently intend to take advantage of federal incentive payments for adoption and meaningful use of certified electronic health records technology, according to survey data released earlier this month by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
Turonie said Raiter Clinic’s new electronic medical records system would qualify for the federal incentive money “provided it’s still there in 2014 or so,” when the reimbursement is supposed to happen.
“That’s not the reason we did this,” he said, stating that increased efficiency was the main driver behind the decision. “With the new system, the doctor looks at the computer screen and it tells him or her everything that’s due and more, rather than thumbing through the chart looking for everything.”
Rick Breuer, CMH CEO/administrator, said the hospital began its transition to electronic medical records years ago, but the process is still ongoing. Rather than going patient by patient, the hospital has made its switch by modules, starting with registration, billing and lab and moving on from there.
“The most current module to go live is the emergency department,” Breuer said. “This is part of a long, mapped-out process.”
Breuer commended Raiter Clinic for taking the time to research “who they are and how they work” before deciding how to make the transition and what system to use.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” he said.
Keeping records up to date is also easier with the new system, Turonie said. During an appointment, doctors have a choice of using voice recognition software called “Dragon Speak,” using a mouse and clicking on options or writing with a pen on a screen.
Turonie said a number of the doctors are opting for the voice recognition software, which prints out as they talk.
“If there’s a mistake, they can just back it up then and correct it,” he said.
One of the best things about the switch to electronic medical records is improved communication, Breuer said.
“We’ll be able to communicate with other healthcare providers such as Raiter Clinic,” Breuer said, noting that the systems would have to have proper security. “If we can share information on a more timely basis, I think that will contribute to better quality of care.”
Dr. David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, credited leadership from the medical community and the federal government for the improved prospects for adoption and use of health information technology.
“For years we have known that electronic health records would improve care for patients and bring about greater cost effectiveness in our health sector, yet adoption rates by health care providers remained low,” Blumenthal said. “In 2009, Congress and the President authorized major new federal support for EHR adoption and use, and in combination with medical professional and hospital leadership, I believe we are seeing the tide turn toward widespread and accelerating adoption and use of health [information technology].”