Q&A with UConn Health’s first chief medical information officer (CMIO), Dr. Dirk Stanley
How transformative is an EMR tool for hospitals and physician practices?
It’s not just the electronic medical record that is so powerful — it’s the medical record in general. In his 1968 New England Journal of Medicine article, “Medical Records that Guide and Teach,” Dr. Larry Weed posited that the way we store information changes the way we think about information, which in turn changes the way we act on information. So a properly designed medical record can lead to improvements in communication and care. Medical records have since gone electronic, opening up even more opportunities to streamline communication and patient care. To do this effectively, however, requires technical people who understand the needs of the patient, the physician, the entire care team, and the health care organization. That’s where it’s helpful to have a clinical informaticist guiding an organization through the process.
How impactful is a single, comprehensive EMR system for improving patient care?
Overall, an EMR is a win for the patients and a win for health care. Putting all inpatient and outpatient health care providers, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other clinical staff on one EMR platform is both a great opportunity and a daunting challenge. It allows for a degree of communication that was never before possible, with the entire care team having immediate access to the same patient data. But it can also present unexpected operational challenges, such as determining who is responsible for which part of the patient’s clinical care. EMRs save time spent tracking down paper charts, are much more secure and legible, and can be easily shared with patients and their caregivers. They also provide researchers access to large volumes of clinical data, which can lead to further care improvements, new therapies, and patient-care standards.
How can an EMR help practices become more clinically and financially efficient in their delivery of high-quality care?
One of the most powerful tools within an EMR system is clinical decision support (CDS). Those little electronic alerts and other design features help guide the physician to the latest guidelines, most recent evidence, and most effective care, since it can be hard to keep up with the heavy volume of new medical information that they need to know. CDS can be used in a wide range of areas, including patient care, patient safety, coordination of care, and for cost reductions. In an outcomes-driven environment, providing great patient care can help translate into improved financial health for an organization.
What is on the horizon when it comes to EMR at UConn Health?
We are currently meeting with people across the organization to help us configure our new EMR system, called HealthONE (Epic). Creating the platform will also allow us to build other evidence-based tools to further improve care and research opportunities here at UConn Health, in the Hartford region, and beyond. We are planning to launch this to our patients and providers in April 2018.