DEARBORN (WWJ) – Oakwood Healthcare System in Dearborn Tuesday showed off part of an $80 million investment in patient care technology that will reduce medical error and make health care safer and more effective.

Oakwood announced that by August, it will fully implement electronic medical records software from Verona, Wis.-based Epic Systems Corp.

The software will then be rolled out to the other three Oakwood acute care centers in metro Detroit, beginning with Annapolis Hospital in November.

Matthew J. Zimmie, M.D., medical director of IT for Oakwood Healthcare Inc., said the new software will improve patient safety by making doctors’ notes and orders easier to read and by restricting access to caregivers who require the informtaion to provide care.

Zimmie said the new technology would also allow doctors to review all patient data anywhere — from their offices or their homes — not just by viewing a chart or a paper file at a patient’s bedside.

The software will also bring all components of a patient’s medical record into one file. Currently, different pieces of information may rest in files in different locations or in different departments within the same hospital. Part of Tuesday’s demonstration was a new device that connects a high-tech respirator — and all the information it collects — directly to the medical records system. Other devices that will now be connected directly to electronic medical records include anesthesia machines and dialysis machines.

“The beauty of this software is that it will collect all these pieces together,” Zimmie said. “No longer will there be these isolated pockets of information.”

For nurses, the system means all the information they need will be instantly available at a patient’s bedside — through mobile workstations on wheels, or WOWs, a medical computer cart that goes wherever clinicians go.

Patients will also have individualized bar code wristbands that contain their complete medical history. All medications will also be individually bar coded, according to Zimmie and Lois Soura, director of nursing informatics at Oakwood. Bar code readers carried by nurses will make sure each patient is getting the right treatments and medications.

“You know you have the right patient associated with the right medication,” Zimmie said.

And if you try to administer medication not prescribed to an individual patient, a warning message pops up on the screen.

Steve Nolff, a nurse who is now an application analyst for Oakwood, said the choice of Epic was the process of a lengthy evaluation.

Patient safety will also be improved through restricted access to medical files. Every person ona patient’s care team will have a different security profile that allows them access to the information they need to perform their duties — but keeps them from accessing information they do not need. A radiologist can only access imaging information, for example; a nutritionist, only dietary. Passwords will be changed frequently and computers will automatically log themselves off after short periods of inactivity. And any information accessed through them does not reside on the individual piece of hardware, but on an off-site server that is also encrypted, Zimmie said.

“There is no information stored on the device — it’s all stored on a secure server,” Zimmie said. “Even if someone managed to steal a doctor’s laptop and hack into it, you won’t be able to get any patient information.”

System log-ins are also regularly audited, Zimmie said, to provide a documented trail of which caregiver accessed patient information and when.

“Every time someone accesses an electronic medical record, it is tracked to a specific login,” Zimmie said. “It’s certainly a big step in the right direction regarding patient privacy.”

The next step for Oakwood is a massive training project — training more than 7,000 doctors, nurses and support staff that will use the new Epic system. Training will begin in April and continue more than a year.


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