I’m pleased to join HSL’s blogging team, representing Information Technology (IT) in health care. I thought for my first post, I’d begin by reflecting on Hebrew SeniorLife’s pioneering effort to bring electronic medical records (EMR) to the long-term and post-acute care environment.
I can’t believe that it’s been a decade since I began working with a group from our IT and Clinical Departments to build and implement EMR at Hebrew SeniorLife. We embarked on this journey with an eye toward reducing costs while improving safety, believing that technology would play an ever-increasing role in the future of health care.
An EMR is a digital version of the old paper system of patient information, including medical history, medical encounters, test results, medications, and other pertinent information that make patient care safer and more efficient. EMR technology allows physicians and other caregivers to communicate and share patient information more accurately, effectively and consistently than do paper documents and are key to the success of HSL’s continuum of care.
The process of moving patients between care settings poses one of the greatest challenges to managing both cost and quality of the care we provide to our older patients and residents. EMR and related technologies together represent the lynchpin in the effort to ensure that critical information is accurately captured and transferred from one place to another, one caregiver to another.
My IT Team spent the better part of two-and-a-half years building the infrastructure and foundation necessary to support EMR solutions across HSL’s system of care. And even though EMR systems have existed for more than 30 years, fewer than 10 percent of hospitals, let alone long-term care facilities, had fully integrated systems when we started developing our EMR systems at HSL.
Once the technical infrastructure was in place, implementation was not without significant challenges, and it was a testament to our dedicated workgroup that we got our systems up and running. The learning curve for the frontline staff was steep and training had to happen while they were providing care. Implementation of our technology initiatives has taken an enormous commitment on the part of HSL and its medical and nursing staffs.
So was it worth the blood, sweat and tears? Definitely! With the advent of health care reform, health care technology is evolving and developing more rapidly than ever. Health care providers have been incentivized to bring technology to the forefront of health care delivery in an effort to improve efficiencies, better manage costs, collect good data to use for research and most importantly, ensure the safety of our patients as we care for them across long-term and post-acute care settings. It has become critically important to be in the vanguard of health care technology implementation, and we are working hard to make sure Hebrew SeniorLife remains an industry leader.