Fletcher Allen implements electronic health records

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(Host) Vermont’s largest hospital, Fletcher Allen Health Care, in Burlington, has successfully completed the first phase of its electronic health record project.  President Obama has been pushing to computerize all health records within five years.  But so far, numbers remain low. 

VPR’s Jane Lindholm has more.

(Lindholm) By putting into effect a comprehensive computer system for patient records, Fletcher Allen joins only a small minority of hospitals nationwide that have already made the switch from paper. 

Fletcher Allen has implemented the system in many areas of the hospital, including inpatient facilities, the pharmacy and the Emergency Department.  The transition has cost the hospital millions of dollars in overtime and training.  And it’s a noticeable change: doctors and nurses carry handheld computers and rooms come equipped with workstations.

Ann Adsem is an assistant nurse manager in inpatient Oncology and hematology.  She says that on her floor the conversion has-for the most part-gone smoothly.

(Adsem) "The nurses have handled it incredibly well.  They did a lot of preparation, a lot of practice and training beforehand.  You know, we’ve been operating with a little bit of an outdated system.  And so this, in a lot of respects, makes our job easier.  It makes it easier to communicate with other staff members, inpatients, outpatient, different members of the team.  Everybody can see the same information."

(Lindholm) One of the questions that has long concerned patients about electronic records has been the issue of security.  Dr. John Brumsted is an ob/gyn and the Chief Quality Officer at Fletcher Allen.  He thinks electronic records offer more protection than paper records when it comes to who can see patient information.

(Brumsted) "Paper can move in ways that are untraceable and difficult.  Electronically we can restrict what patient information they can access.  So it’s really on a need-to-know basis.  And we’re able-and we do-audit who accesses patient information and that audit function is something that is much easier to do than in a paper-based environment."

(Lindholm) Assistant Nurse Manager Ann Adsem says the most important aspect of transitioning from paper to electronic records has been maintaining patient care.

(Adsem) "The actual care that the nurses provide still stays the same. We care for all of the needs that they have physically, emotionally; you know, administer medications and help them.  It’s just a little different in how we document it."

(Lindholm) Fletcher Allen plans to have all of its facilities and departments completely electronic by December of next year. 

For VPR News, I’m Jane Lindholm.

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