HUP ahead of medical records curve
The hospital is among a minority nationwide to use an electronic health records system
January 26, 2012, 9:13 pm·
Nursing professionals at Penn are weighing the benefits and costs that may come with hospitals digitizing their patients’ records.
While the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania implemented its electronic health records system in 2006, it remains among a small number of hospitals nationwide that has adopted such technology.
According to Ann Kutney-Lee, an assistant professor and researcher at the School of Nursing, about 12 percent of hospitals in the country have basic EHR systems in place.
Kutney-Lee, who has been researching the presence of EHRs in hospitals, wrote in a recent report in the Journal of Nursing Administration that “implementation of an EHR may result in improved and more efficient nursing care, better care coordination and patient safety.”
“The vision is for the EHR to become a portable health history, which will enable nurses to track a patient from birth to death,” Victoria Rich, chief nurse executive at HUP, said.
Before the EHR was introduced at HUP, clinical assessments were conducted by hand. This system, according to Rich, made it difficult for records to be easily accessible by non-physicians.
With the system that was implemented in 2006, nurses are now able to identify risks, triggers and other health issues more quickly and effectively, she added.
“We will be able to keep our population healthier by having a documentation system that will serve as a snapshot that tells everything about the patient holistically,” Rich said.
Penn’s Student Health Services also makes use of a similar EHR system.
“Written records, lab reports, medications [and] allergies are all kept in the electronic health record and for the most part, they are well organized, legible and easy to retrieve,” Janice Asher, medical chief of Women’s Health at SHS, said.
Despite the benefits that may come with EHRs, however, Kutney-Lee acknowledged that many hospitals remain wary of adopting the system due to the expensive technology and long transition period associated with it.
“The technology is so new and there are still many bugs in the program, which could be a major stumbling block,” Kutney-Lee said.
Often times, Kutney-Lee added, there may not be a nursing consultant participating in the designing stage of an EHR, which could cause significant limitations to the system later on.
Asher said, “There was a definite learning curve at the beginning [of the EHR’s implentation], but now I find that I love it.”