Hospitals making jump to digital records

Rogue Regional has gone digital with patient records, and Providence Medford isn't far behind
Cathy White, RN, left, Patricia Robbins, RN, test out Rogue Regional Medical Center's new medical software with patient Mark Hill, who is recovering from hip surgery Friday. The program has changed the way doctors send and receive patient information and has experienced few issues since going live. Mail Tribune / Jamie LuschJamie Lusch

A stressed-out workforce at Rogue Regional Medical Center flipped the switch on a new medical records software program last week, and so far the results have been positive, despite a few bugs that popped up, hospital officials said.

The program, called Epic Systems, is the hospital's effort to streamline its medical records and save time and paper through a complete digital conversion.

"It's a big change, and our people seem to be adapting to it very well," said Jeffrey Wajda, the hospital's vice president of medical informatics.

The overhaul will affect most of the hospital's 3,400 employees, who have been served up a crash-course in the complicated new system over the past year.

The system's goal is to chop the number of record duplications that have caused inefficiencies in the hospital for decades. If you've ever spent time in the hospital, you know the frustration of filling out the same form time and again as you move from station to station.

The new software is intended to consolidate this information, which will be transferred quickly between each doctor or nurse that treats you.

In the past, the hospital has had to rent storage rooms to keep all of the patient medical records on file, Wajda said.

No major overhaul is without some missteps in its early days. Wait times to register have been longer than normal and some radiology tests were delayed, but that department now has caught up on its orders.

One of the immediate changes patients should notice upon entering the hospital is that a nurse will enter information right in front of a new patient, giving the person a chance to ask questions about the results of an X-ray or some other procedure, said Jamie Grebosky, the hospital's vice president of medical affairs.

"Before Epic, it took time to look up that information, depending on when it was done," Grebosky said. "Now those records can be brought up instantly for the patient to see."

Mark Hetz, chief information officer at Rogue Regional, attended a conference in Wisconsin for hospitals that have installed Epic. Some of these advisers descended on the hospital to help the crew navigate the new system, he said.

"We did bring in some battle-tested people to help get us through this as easily as possible," he said.

Consolidating medical records was one of the major goals of the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. The federal government calls for hospitals to have at least 30 percent of all lab orders done electronically. Right now, RRMC is up to 90 percent of all orders on digital.

Providence Medical Center's 12 clinics adopted Epic Systems in September 2012, and the hospital will go live on April 27, according to Providence spokeswoman Kelly Polden.

Providence has used its Epic System to communicate with Mercy Flights emergency crews. The process allows the hospital to communicate quickly with ambulances and helicopters, which often carry seriously injured or ill patients.

Dr. Jason Kuhl of Providence said the system will help patients better understand the care they receive at the hospital.

"Physicians can view lab work, medication lists, allergy lists, patient problem lists and imaging results on a 24/7 basis, no matter where they may be — home, office or elsewhere," Kuhl said, via email.

Kuhl added that this information will be hosted on a secure website.

Ultimately, cutting down on paper will save some money, but the major benefit could be shorter patient stays, Grebosky said.

"We want to cut the amount of time patients remain in the hospital," he said. "That benefits everyone."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or

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