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TODAY news for Thursday, November 2, 2006

Loma Linda University Medical Center news

Family medicine is first LLU practice to implement electronic medical records

The family medicine department at Loma Linda University Medical Center “went live” in August with electronic medical records (EMR) in both the faculty practice and the residency clinic, making it the first practice group on campus to implement EMR in its outpatient clinic.

“Family medicine has taken an important pioneering step in implementing the electronic medical record in their practice,” says Michael Jackson, MPH, administrator of East Campus. “We commend family medicine for their efforts to further enhance service to patients receiving care at the LLUMC–East Campus.”

Family practice medical director Linda Deppe, DO, says that electronic medical records provide timely access to charts when patients come for visits. This is important in family medicine, which now makes 90 to 120 slots per day available for same-day appointments. “Before electronic records, our same-day providers might be without a patient’s chart in one-third to one-half of all visits,” says Dr. Deppe. Now charts can be obtained in minutes. EMR also improves consistency of records, especially medical prescriptions and nursing orders, she says.

New medical records are being created using the electronic system, says Dr. Deppe. Old records are now being scanned into the system, a process that will take months to complete.

Planning for the transition to EMR began three and a half years ago, says Dr. Deppe, who notes that many layers of decision-making were required to implement the change. Beginning the electronic medical records system in the smaller residency clinic on August 1 allowed for a learning curve before the August 21 go-live date for the larger faculty practice group.

Physicians, nurses, and other staff now work on laptop computers to enter information into patient charts. The laptops easily convert into tablets so that physicians can share information with patients. Physicians can now do charting remotely—at home, or, for example, while attending a woman in labor at the hospital.

Lauren Simon, MD, assistant director of the family medicine residency program and director of primary care sports medicine, considers the switch to electronic medical records “challenging but exciting,” adding that “there are times when there has been frustration when the computer does not do what I would like it to do.” But, she says, “the patients have been great—they have been marvelous cheerleaders.” Dr. Simon believes the patients will like EMR because as physicians become more experienced with the system, they can “turn the screen around and show them their labs, show them reports from other departments.”

EMR also facilitates faster prescription refills. Family medicine’s goal is for prescription refills to be handled in 24 hours or less.

While EMR makes patient care more efficient and accurate, it will also allow for more opportunistic preventive care, says Dr. Deppe. Family medicine plans to implement the Doc-Site patient registry system by November. This will facilitate planned care for patient populations, beginning with diabetes. It will provide system cues to make sure physicians remind patients to get the tests they need to screen for potential condition-related problems.

By Marilyn Thomsen

TODAY news for Thursday, November 2, 2006