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April 29, 2009 > A winning prescription - Information Technology is good medicine

A winning prescription - Information Technology is good medicine

Kaiser Permanente awarded top honors

The Kaiser Permanente Fremont and Hayward Medical Centers are among only 15 hospitals in the U.S. today to receive a major health information technology award from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), considered to be the premier health care IT organization in America. "The HIMSS awards are dedicated to recognizing medical industry leaders in their use of health information technology," said Mike Davis, executive vice president of HIMSS Analytics. Kaiser Permanente Fremont and Hayward Medical Centers served as the evaluation site for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.

Dr. Robert Greenberg, emergency physician and Assistant Physician in Chief for IT has led the effort to implement an electronic medical record approach for the Kaiser Permanente system. He says that the Kaiser Permanente experience brings a unique perspective of the issues "from the user side as well as the overarching perspectives." Although there are many efforts throughout the United States to construct and manage electronic medical records, Greenberg notes that one of the key components is "to compare apples to apples." He adds that the Stage 7 award recognizes years of effort by the Kaiser team to create a "hierarchy of what other systems should aim for in implementation of electronic records." This effort focused on expanding an existing system that exchanged information of medications, allergies and diagnosis to include full documentation. With increased sophistication of the system, Greenberg says, "I can now travel to a primary care doctor's office in Sacramento and look at orders being entered in real time on an emergency room patient in Fremont."

KP HealthConnect(tm) electronically connects Kaiser hospitals and enables members to be more involved in managing their health by providing online access to medical records, interactive and online tools. "We [Northern California Kaiser Permanente] have 11 of the 15 hospitals in the country with the ability to share information interchangeably and thoroughly from the inpatient side of things to the clinic - back and forth." He says that even though others have implemented systems, this method of sharing information is unique. "This is cutting edge." Members have access to My Health Manager - Kaiser Permanente's personal health record - providing online appointment scheduling and prescription refills. In addition, users have 24/7 online access to lab test results, eligibility and benefits information, and even their children's immunization records.

Connectivity has become a national priority evidenced by the recent announcement of President Obama to invest $19 billion in health information technology as part of the $789 billion recovery and reinvestment plan. A recent survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that only 1.5 percent of non-federal hospitals in the United States use a comprehensive electronic records.

"In order to provide the best health care possible in the 21st century, we as a country must take full advantage of the life-changing impact that advanced information technology can have on medicine," said Dr. Robert Pearl, executive director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group in Northern California. An emerging regional goal is to provide a connection between hospital system models so information can be exchanged. Dr. Greenberg says that in a demonstration for HIMSS, Kaiser Permanente was able to successfully exchange medical information with the Veteran's Administration.

With a paperless environment, Stage 7 hospitals use clinical data for performance improvement and analytics of care delivery. Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Northern California including Antioch Medical Center, Fremont Medical Center, Hayward Medical Center, Manteca Hospital, Modesto Medical Center, Roseville Medical Center, Sacramento Medical Center, Santa Rosa Medical Center, South Sacramento Medical Center, South San Francisco Medical Center and Walnut Creek Medical Center were honored for reaching Stage 7. In addition, Kaiser Permanente's Irvine Medical Center in Southern California received the top honor from HIMSS. The other three recipients were hospitals within the NorthShore University HealthSystem in Illinois.

The future of medicine and integrated medical information systems holds great promise. Dr. Greenberg says, "The single most exciting direction for us right now is, for the first time, having order entry, results and outcomes on a computerized system. We will be able to look at true outcome data." He explains that if a patient comes to an emergency room with chest pain, data will be available to give comprehensive data of similar patients with similar symptoms and successful treatments using a particular medication or regimen.

"We are beginning to come up with data and order sets now that are astounding. We are very quickly gathering information about the efficacy of medications and treatment plans to provide decision support. We can come up with outcomes that will be the envy of the world around us."

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