KDMC in line for records help funding

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 10, 2008

Barely five weeks after U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker toured King’sDaughters Medical Center during a campaign stop in Brookhaven, thepolitician from north Mississippi has cleared the first obstacle inanswering a request from the hospital staff.

A Senate appropriations bill recently passed out of committeeand now awaiting a vote by the full Senate contains aWicker-authored stipulation that would provide $500,000 to KDMC forthe purchase and installation of an electronic medical recordssystem.

“The overall goal behind this system is to have more of a continuumof care,” said KDMC Director of Information Systems Carl Smith.”Our physicians will have more information at theirfingertips.”

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Smith said the hospital has sought to incorporate an electronicrecords system since early 2007, when hospital officials failed tosecure an appropriation during a trip to Washington D.C.

If Wicker’s half-million dollar appropriation is approved, Smithsaid the forthcoming technical upgrades at the hospital would allowpatients’ medical records and history to be viewed electronicallyby physicians from basically anywhere.

“The patient chart will become electronic, which is a very coolthing,” Smith said. “It will make a major difference here. It willsave patients’ time and make sure their records are secure andprivate.”

Smith said the system would not only allow physicians to reviewpatients’ medical histories by accessing the hospital’s softwarevia the Internet, but would also allow them to view incominginformation in real time. The system will have the ability totransmit images, such as X-rays, electrocardiograms and telemetry,as well as text. Physicians will also be able to sign patientcharts electronically.

“Information will be captured on the front end,” he said. “When amonitor is hooked up to a patient, information will be collectedelectronically and passed into the information system.”

KDMC plans to match the pending $500,000 with an undeterminedamount of its own funds in order to purchase new technology toaccommodate the system. Smith said new tablets and laptop computerswill be necessary, along with several new servers to run therecords system and software for each.

The hospital also plans to purchase new scanners so that old paperrecords may be scanned into the new system.

While some patients may feel uneasy about having their medicalinformation stored electronically and accessible via the Internet,Smith said the new system would have several security records toprotect patients’ personal information and is in fact more securethan paper records.

“According to federal law, information has to be safeguarded on aneed-to-know basis,” he said. “If a physician or an employee needsaccess to a patient’s medical records in order to do their job,then they have access. If they don’t, the information will berestricted.”

A potential security measure being contemplated by Smith andhospital officials is the installation of biometric devices thatwould grant access based on thumbprint scans. Another technologybeing discussed is a proximity device, which would allow computersto recognize a physician when he approaches the computer and logsoff his account when he walks away.

Smith said the new system, if approved, would be integrated intothe hospital gradually. Paper charts will still be printed and thenscanned into the system.

“We will kind of migrate off the paper chart into the electronicsystem,” Smith said. “This is new to us, so we’re going to take itone step at a time.”

Smith said the system would be installed in all departments on thehospital’s campus. He hopes the capability will be extended toother area physicians and doctors’ offices in the future.

“The Lord is blessing us,” he said. “Instead of having to drive uphere at 3 a.m., a physician can pull up information in minutesinstead of having to wait an hour. And when someone is in theemergency room in the middle of the night, that’s huge.”

Wicker’s spokesman, Jordan Stoick, said the final word on thehospital’s funding would probably come later in the year.

“It’s doubtful this bill will move before the full Senate beforeAugust,” he said. “There are a bunch of other things on Congress’plate to take care of during the rest of July.”

Stoick said the bill would likely move before the full Senate inSeptember or October, after Congress returns from an August hiatusfor congressional district work in home states.

“The only question is whether or not this specific bill gets passedindividually or gets rolled into a larger, omnibus spending bill,”he said. “But getting this funding included at the committee levelwas an important first step.”