Local health care networks ‘wired’ for improved patient care

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Kettering Health Network's Fort Hamilton Hospital recently displayed a device that helped land the network on the American Hospital Association's annual Most Wired list.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Keeping wired in today’s health care environment is crucial, according to officials at local health care systems and hospitals recently recognized by the American Hospital Association.

Mercy Health, Kettering Health Network, TriHealth, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Christ Hospital Health Network are the five local entities that made AHA’s recently released Most Wired for 2016 list, a distinction that includes more than 300 hospitals and health care systems nationwide.

One of the most important “wired” aspects of Kettering Health Network, which earned its first “Most Wired” honors, is the implementation of the Epic electronic health record software, according to Dr. Charles Watson, chief medical information officer for the network, which operates Butler County’s Fort Hamilton Hospital.

“Kettering Health Network has one of the most comprehensive and integrated electronic medical record systems in the country,” he said. “It covers the most services that a hospital network would need, including patient access to their health records, remote access for physicians.”

Watson said technology helps the network to improve processes and standardize functionality that improves the standard of care for patients.

“In addition to Epic, we also have software that enables physicians to remotely view medical information to make clinical decisions about patients,” he said. “For example, an obstetrician can remotely access a fetal monitor strip from a smartphone.”

Kettering Health Network also uses telehealth for consultations, including neonatal, psychiatric, and stroke.

Watson said the goal is not to be as “wired” as possible, but rather to recognize where technology can help provide the best care to patients.

“Our mission centers on patient care,” he said. “We use technology to help further our mission.”

For Mercy Health, which has received the award for three years, online access to records and notifications, the ability to receive and view test results on smartphones, and e-visits enable patients to more actively partner with their providers, according to Becky Sykes, chief information officer for the system.

“By providing increased opportunities to interact with providers and personal health care information when and how patients need it, we allow them to become more active participants in their care,” Sykes said. “Mercy Health is in the process of piloting a variety of new technologies that will enable patients to connect with providers in new and different ways. In addition, we’re working diligently on a new patient portal that will make it easier to find a physician and schedule an appointment.”

Sykes said technology drives the way patients access and utilize information.

“As more and more patients utilize the internet and other technologies as their primary source of data, we must ensure we meet them where and when they need it,” she said.

According to the survey, Most Wired hospitals and health systems are using telehealth to fill gaps in care, provide round-the-clock services and expand access to medical specialists. This year’s results show:

  • The top three telehealth services offered in hospitals are consultations and office visits, stroke care, and psychiatric examinations and psychotherapy.
  • Stroke care is the most rapid growth area for telehealth services up 38 percent from 2015, as evidence-based studies emphasize the time urgency of stroke care.
  • More than 25 percent of hospitals use Internet-enabled monitoring devices for chronic disease management of congestive heart failure, diabetes and heart disease.

“Hospitals are breaking-out of their traditional four walls and providing care where and when patients need it,” said Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the AHA. “These Most Wired hospitals and health systems exemplify this transformation by harnessing technology, engaging patients and offering services remotely. And, removing policy and other barriers to telehealth will allow even faster adoption of these amazing technologies.”

TriHealth has earned the award for 10 years for numerous “wired” aspects, including single electronic medical records per patient across the entire health system that has about 130 sites of care and six hospitals, according to John Ward, TriHealth’s chief information officer.

Those “wired” features mean real-time access to medical records no matter where previous care took place and patient access to medical records via patient portal technology, he said.

“We are living in an age of consumerism and increasing health care cost, the use of health technology including mobile, wearables, clinical informatics, predictive analytics, interoperability and an integrated health record will help lead to better patient outcomes at a lower cost,” Ward said.

Cincinnati Children’s has expanded its telemedicine programs to reach more doctors and patients locally and worldwide, implemented electronic medical record throughout all venues of care, and used data to understand and predict the flow of patients, outcomes received and other key performance indicators, according to Tony Johnston, vice president and chief technology officer of information services at Cincinnati Children’s.

“Utilizing our Telemedicine Program, patients can receive the care they need whether at the Main Campus, Liberty or other locations,” Johnston said. “Our specialist providers can access the program’s video-based technology to consult and exchange information with one another, giving patients access to world-class expertise regardless of where they are physically.”

“We use predictive analytics to make sure that patients flow effectively from the Operating Room to the PACU to the ICU, helping to make sure our inpatients are in the appropriate care area for their condition.”

For Cincinnati Children’s, which has received the award for five consecutive years, It’s important to be as “wired” as possible because investment and commitment to the use of technology provides clinicians access to the right data at the right time, Johnston said. That can promote safety, improved work flow and better outcomes for patients.

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