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Physicians who practice at Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue, WA, can access patient medical records, review laboratory tests and pharmacy records over the Internet.
Before the WebChart system was instituted in August, if a patient came into the emergency room and was sent to her doctor for a follow-up, the doctor had to call the hospital to get the history and treatment records. If a family physician referred a patient to a specialist who hospitalized him, the physician had to either drive to the hospital and look at the charts or call the specialist. Physicians who referred patients to the hospital for laboratory tests or X-rays had to wait for the results or call the hospital.
With the new system, physicians merely have to log onto the hospital’s secure Internet site and enter their security code to see lab results, patient record transcription, and other data. The only equipment needed is a computer with Internet access and a Web browser.
The hospital developed WebChart for about $250,000 using off-the-shelf software in association with vendors. More than 100 doctors are using the service. The chart on the computer screen looks like a paper chart with tabs that access radiology, lab results, and other data.
"It helps us tremendously in the transfer of patient information from the hospital back to the physician. There is a ton of pressures on our physicians. They need to be efficient and they don’t need to be driving over here or being on hold for a long time just to find out something," says Bruce Elkington, chief information officer for the 257-bed nonprofit hospital
The hospital system’s WebChart is available to all medical staff of the hospital and requires only Internet Explorer and a security card. If doctors are called at home, they can access the chart from their home computers.
"We do this dance between the physician offices and the hospital getting information about what happened to the patient here back to the family physician. As a technology-oriented guy, it’s frustrating to me that the guy who changes my oil and has my car’s history on a wireless device is more technologically up to date than the physicians I work with," Elkington says.
Since the system was started in August, Elkington has received rave reviews from the physicians, who like being able to get the information quickly and easily, no matter where they are. "It’s made a difference in patient care. I can get the information very quickly and it saves personnel time when I can look it up, rather than getting the staff to call," read one physician’s e-mail.
If physicians have automated medical records in their office, they can copy and paste the hospital data.
If you’d like your hospital to develop such a system, Elkington has some words of advice: "Don’t let perfect’ be the enemy of the very good’."
The doctors who helped develop WebChart told Elkington that if they could get the lab results, the transcriptions, and the pharmacy information on their patients, they would have 90% of what they needed. "The problem with creating complete comprehensive cross-provider medical records is that it’s like boiling the ocean. It’s a project so big and complex that attempts haven’t been too successful, Elkington says.