East York hospital launches electronic health records
Patient records go digital, phasing out handwritten charts
By Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier Dec. 10)
Deciphering illegible handwriting will be all but eliminated at Toronto East General Hospital thanks to a new electronic health record system.
This is the main benefit of having over 80 percent of all health records and medicine orders available electronically rather than handwritten, say TEGH staff.
“No more bad doctor handwriting,” Dr. Pieter Jugovic tells the Town Crier during a demonstration of two new programs, Computerized Provider Order Entry and Electronic Medication Administration Record. In the past when a doctor wrote a prescription it was possible for pharmacists to misread the dosage and fill the order incorrectly. Now, info is inputed into the computer and in-house pharmacists can access prescriptions electronically.
But that’s just the start.As of Nov. 24, hospital staff started to eliminate the need for a clipboard and paper patient records that travel between departments. Almost all patient orders for tests and procedures are retrieved by hospital staff in real time via computers.
“TEGH is the first community hospital in the city that has achieved this high degree of automation,” says Karin Archer Myles, a hospital spokesperson.
When a doctor is looking to treat a cancer patient or someone admitted with a drug overdose, they can check the new computer system for an electronic menu of what meds can be used for treatment or blood tests are needed and check off boxes accordingly.
“Physicians can choose what’s most appropriate for a patient,” says Jugovic.
And nurses can access information indicating when it is time to administer another dose of medication or check back with a patient to see if pain medicine is working.
Hospital staff don’t have to be inside the building to see patients’ records.
“It’s universally accessible technology,” says Jugovic. “You could be on a beach and do this.”
The system took two years to develop and another six months of training before it was launched at the hospital in late November.
Funding came from both the hospital budget and a federal government grant.
Jugovic says some day electronic patient info will be standard practice in all hospitals.
“It’s the way of the future,” he says. “We will have (medical) residents in the future who have only ever entered orders in computers and never written an order.”
How the system works
Toronto East General Hospital now uses Computerized Provider Order Entry software that allows clinicians to enter their orders directly into the electronic patient record on a computer instead of a paper chart.
As well, hospital staff use Electronic Medication Administration Record, which incorporates a person’s medication orders with an automatic schedule for nurses prompting them when to give meds.
On top of the software, hospital staff to access patient information from their desktop computer or a mobile workstation that can be wheeled into a patient’s room.
A separate scanner can be used to scan barcodes on patient’s hospital ID bracelet and barcodes on medication, to instantly update computer records, as well as a portable handheld tablet computer that has a scanner built in.
Authorized staff can also access patients’ records by logging onto a secure website, typing in their hospital authorization and viewing information from cell phones, Blackberries or computers outside the hospital.