New electronic records system will help VNA efficiency
Craig — At the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, a health care provider used to walk into an exam room with a paper chart. The chart could be passed off from medical assistants to providers, from billing staff back to the doctors.
But medical assistants may never have to pull another chart again.
Now, the health care providers walk in to an exam room with handheld computers that are directly connected to a two-month-old electronic medical records system.
The new system is part of an 18-month process to update and expand the VNA. Funding for the new computers and servers came from a federal grant that totaled about $150,000. The VNA recently acquired another $300,000 in stimulus money to begin expansion from six to 16 exam rooms.
Currently, the five health care providers at the VNA each have their own tablet laptop, which has a swivel screen that turns it into a writing tablet. The doctors can take notes on a visit and make annotations to images like MRIs and X-Rays directly on the screen. They can print letters, such as school absences, and prescriptions to any of the network printers.
“They are consistently logged into those medical records,” VNA director of operations Cole White said. “They can constantly upload records in real time without ever having to plug in.”
In addition, in each exam room a new Dell computer sits on an extendable metal arm. Each computer is also hooked up to the wireless network of medical records.
Medical assistants can log information such as vital signs and medical history, while physicians can keep up with prescriptions, allergies and images.
“We’re really making it as simple as possible,” White said. “We’re eliminating all the mistakes that come with paper. There is less aptitude for error when you don’t have to read peoples’ handwriting.”
For example, the system can search for every 2-year-old patient who hasn’t received his or her vaccinations and print up individual reminder letters. Eventually the system will be able to make electronic phone calls for check-up reminders.
Electronic records also free up a lot of physical space, as a full-time staff member is working to transfer all of the charts into the server, which is backed-up every night.
At first, White said, the system will require some getting used to. Doctors and assistants will have to learn its capabilities and create shortcuts to ensure efficiency.
Ideally, the electronic system will help both patient care and collection of charges.
Because each visit and all of the services provided are recorded on the network, it can be submitted electronically to Medicare and Medicaid to avoid mistakes in the billing process.
“A lot of our patients are through Medicare or Medicaid, so we really rely on those reimbursements,” White said.
The system will help the VNA run more smoothly and increase the efficiency of the inflow as the VNA looks toward expanding to three times its current capacity.
“The idea is that we can get busier without having extra staff,” White said. “And this system is really becoming the standard of care.”
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