St. Joseph Mercy hospitals make mass switch to new records system
A few days ago, Errol Soskolne’s job as chair of pediatrics at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System might have gone much differently.
If he wanted to find a patient’s information, for example, he might have had look for some medical information on a computer in one place, find a nurse or physician note in another place and walk down or call another department for the rest of the information.
Starting this weekend, he can find it all from the many computer terminals that dot the aisles of the various hospital units.
In a highly orchestrated switchover that’s been in the works since 2001, St. Joseph Mercy hospitals in Ann Arbor, Saline and Livingston County were all upgrading their electronic medical record systems for the first time in about 15 years.
Earlier this year, St. Joseph Mercy Health System said it was spending $10 million to implement the switch. The capital cost of the new system at St. Joseph Mercy is about $45 million.
It's part of a $400 million electronic medical records overhaul by Trinity Health, the parent company for St. Joseph Mercy Health System. Trinity Health is moving from a patchwork of different electronic records systems to a more unified system of applications.
Administrators have said the change will increase efficiency and patient safety at the hospital because it closes the communication loop among the different care providers who might record information about a patient.
They also said it will reduce the number of paperwork handoffs and provides automatic reminders and warnings, such as allergies to medication, for example, to reduce the chance for human error.
“This integrates the system more than ever before,” said Soskolne, also the health system’s chief medical information officer. “It may take (physicians) a little more time than writing, but the bottom line is patient care.”
The first department went live on the new system a bit after 2 p.m. on Saturday. Other departments among the three hospitals were to continue going live throughout the weekend.
The change this weekend meant a flurry of behind-the-scenes-activity in command centers full of people sitting in rooms full of computers and ready to troubleshoot.
In other rooms, medical professionals sat near computers manually entering patient information that couldn't be digitally transferred between the two systems.
The change was visible when a nurse or a doctor began filling out a form or looking up information on a system they'd never tried before.
For the next two weeks, hundreds of staff members from other Trinity Health hospitals around the state and country will be in Ann Arbor to assist during the transition.
“There are little nuances to every system,” Soskolne said. “The goal is to make this as seamless to the users as possible.”
They and staffers who received extra training are called super-users. Wearing specially colored shirts, they will be expected to help doctors and nurses.
Tammy Kunath, a nurse in the emergency department, was the first person to use the system on a patient after it went live on Saturday.
"It's a bit slower, but this is only my fourth patient," Kunath said. "It's too soon to tell."