St. Luke's Hospital is Wired for EMR

After 18 months of planning, installing, building and training (and yes, even a little bit of worrying), St. Luke's Hospital is now up and running with our new electronic Health Information System (HIS).

"Without doubt, we appreciate our patient's patience as our staff and physicians work to perfect their computer skills using a completely new software program!," said Ken Shull, chief executive officer. "So far, not too bad. Our staff and physicians have worked hard to minimize disruption in daily operations and patient care, but as you can imagine, it's been quite a challenge," he added.

On Monday, June 18, St. Luke's Hospital transitioned to the new McKesson Paragon health information system after 80-plus years of writing, deciphering and transcribing physician orders, test results, medications and diet orders.

"It's no wonder that a computerized system is expected to improve patient safety by allowing physicians and hospitals to share test results, health history and medication lists," Shull said.

With the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, electronic medical records have been a major focus for many healthcare providers. Federal guidelines set deadlines for transitioning from paper charts to electronic charts. Healthcare providers have to demonstrate "meaningful use" if they expect to receive any reimbursement for our significant investment in time and dollars necessary for this tremendous undertaking, Shull explained.

"I'm pleased to announce that we met the first hurdle; after nearly 3,000 man hours and $2.5 million that has gone into prepping the hospital, staff and physicians to "Go Live!," we did. But it hasn't been easy, especially for a community hospital that was already behind in IT infrastructure. It has taken tremendous efforts of our staff and great support from our Board to buy and build the Paragon EMR," Shull added.

In the computer training center on our campus, more than 30 key employees from various departments (Super Users) worked with system experts to build the program for St. Luke's EMR. Prior to our Go Live date in June, these Super Users experienced a week of integrated testing to help identify areas for improvement in the programming and workflow. Once all the "glitches" were corrected, all system users, including physicians, were trained on the new EMR.

During the big switch to the new program, more than 40 Paragon experts, Carolinas HealthCare System consultants and banks of computers were set up in the temporary Command Center (St. Luke's Boardroom) to answer questions and address any issues that came up with the launch. Considering the buzz of activity as hospital staff switched to the new system, the Command Center was amazingly quiet and the transition relatively smooth.

"Thanks to outstanding leadership and staff commitment, St. Luke's Hospital proudly joined the ranks of other larger healthcare systems with electronic medical records!" Shull said. "While we may still look and feel a little overwhelmed with this monumental change in our workflow and patient care processes, please know that we working hard to make this transition with little disruption and with exceptional care, close to home."


Photo: In the Nurses' Station at St. Luke's Hospital, Colden Odell, RN, (right) makes sure there is a smooth transition to the new information system while other nurses begin to use Paragon for computerized health records.