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Providence St. Joseph goes high-tech

POLSON — “We’re in the 21st century, and we’re still scribing on paper,” said Chief Executive Officer James Kiser of Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. “The time has come.” 

Kiser was describing St. Joe’s changeover from paper charts to electronic records.

Instead of so much time spent manually charting, that time can be spent with the patient, bedside, according to Kiser.

“Multiple parties (doctors, nurses, specialists, etc.) can be in the chart at the same time,” Kiser said.

Epic, a company based in Madison, Wisc. is handling the transfer, and St. Joe’s “went live” on Jan. 19.

Regional Director for Mission Integration, Karen Myers, said, “It will transform care in Western Montana.” 

As a small hospital, the only reason St. Josephs will be able to go electronic is because of Providence, since it’s a small hospital that wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford the service. 

With more than 60,000 employees and 33 hospitals, “that’s an incredible array of expertise,” Myer said.   

For patients, the transition will mean medical records will be available throughout the Providence hospitals in Washington, Oregon, California and Montana.

Also, with a program called MyChart, patients can access their own records online to review medications, immunizations and medical history, request prescription renewals, review test results, read clinic after-care visit summaries, schedule appointments, receive electronic statements, pay their bill or email their doctor, said Brooke Roberts, education coordinator at Providence St. Joseph.

Epic has been on site scanning paper charts seven days a week for a couple of months, according to Robyn Cantrell-Lane, patient access representative. Lane is on the front line; she’s the first face patients see as they come through the front door. 

“What is wonderful,” Lane added, “is that 99.9 percent of people are so excited about the change.”

Electronic records makes it easier for people to manage their health care, and will speed up the registration process.

Cindy Hagen, an R.N. on Medical Surge, trained for six weeks in Missoula, attending classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with close to an extra 400 hours in homework. She became credentially trained, which means she can train others. 

Since the administrative charting is done before the patient arrives on the floor, Hagen said nurses can settle patients into their rooms, get to know them and their routines and help them ease their way into the hospital, Hagen said.

Epic saves her time because she can chart at one spot, but the information is available to physicians and nurses anywhere on the system. A computer is available for charting, there is one in each patient room, examination room, additional computers in the hallway and at the nurses stations. 

Doctors can check charts from their office on their laptop or smartphone. 

In the obstetrics/gynecology wing, Jamie Straub, D.O., said she finds Epic user-friendly.  

It’s hard to get used to using a computer when a patient comes in, so she’s had to find a new flow. 

A lot of patients, she said, are excited about MyChart. They can be more proactive with their healthcare by checking the problem list and correct issues. 

Although she’s not yet received any emails from patients since MyChart is just getting up and running, Straub said an email will work well for a quick question for ob-gyn docs.

A pregnant patient can ask, “Hey, can I take this medicine?” a simple question that can be answered on the computer.

Straub already uses e-prescriptions instead of paper prescriptions, so patients just need to pick up their meds at the pharmacy. Laboratory tests and X-rays are ordered in the same way so a patient doesn’t have to tote along a paper order. 

Although there are a few glitches, they’ve been resolved quickly, Straub said. 

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