(Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 18--Sitting in a meeting room audience on Wednesday at Methodist North Hospital, Tammy Haden provided living proof that an electronic medical record can save lives.
"It still makes me cry," said Haden, 52, a FedEx information technology worker.
Electronic medical or electronic health record systems are front-burner issues for a hospital industry spurred by federal incentives, Medicare and Medicaid policies and demands to improve quality and efficiencies.
At the Methodist hospital in Raleigh, Haden was the guest of honor at a celebration marking the 10th anniversary of the electronic medical record roll out. All of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare's eight hospitals followed.
Methodist, using the technology of Kansas City-based Cerner Corp., was an early adopter. By 2008, only 9.4 percent of nonfederal acute care hospitals had adopted at least a basic electronic health record system, according to the federal Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. By 2012, that percentage had risen above 44 percent.
Memphis-based Baptist Memorial Health Care launched a massive $200 million project this year to roll out its system, Baptist OneCare, based on the software technology of Cerner's chief rival, Wisconsin-based Epic.
For Haden, a cold in December 2010 had developed into pneumonia and then life-threatening sepsis, which was triggered in her bloodstream by her body's reaction to an infection. Haden only knew that an alarmed Methodist minor medical clinic doctor had told her to take an ambulance to an emergency room.
When Haden arrived at the Methodist North emergency room that December, the computers running Methodist's pioneering effort followed a programmed rule that told them to look at patient data such as lab results and vital signs and alert doctors and nurses when signs pointed to sepsis.
The sepsis alert they received for Haden triggered immediate treatment, three days in an intensive care unit, five days in the hospital, and eventually a full recovery.
"The crowning point of all this is to save lives and make a difference," Michael Ugwueke, president and chief operating officer of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, told the gathering.
The sepsis alert that Methodist developed is shared with Cerner's customers around the globe, said Alastair MacGregor, Methodist's chief health care information officer.
And it's an example of how electronic medical records can save lives. While sepsis is responsible for about 30 percent of hospital deaths throughout the industry, it claims about 6 percent who die at Methodist North, MacGregor said.
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