YKHC to move to electronic records

by Mark Arehart on November 7, 2012

Dozens of people test the EHR system at the Cultural Center in Bethel.

Soon medical visits in the YK Delta could become simpler, and possibly safer. The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation is working on a new, elaborate electronic health record system so village clinics and the hospital in Bethel can share patient information in moments.

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Dozens and dozens of people are using laptops at the Cultural Center in Bethel. They are all working as a team testing YKHC’s electronic health record system or EHR.

YKHC Chief of Staff Ellen Hodges said the system will greatly improve communication throughout the corporation and ultimately provide patients with better care.

“So if a patient is in the village, the doctor in Bethel can see the information that the health aid enters. And I can transfer information to the pharmacy and to radiology and so on and so forth,” Hodges said.

YKHC currently uses an old school records system, literally pens and paper, files and folders.

“This will completely eliminate all of that because it will all be available on the computer. And so the doctor in Bethel can just log on to the computer and have access to everything that’s happened to the patient,” Hodges said.

Hodges said this EHR system, which uses the internet to communicate, has been a long time in the making. “For the past year we’ve been working on building the electronic health record from scratch.”

YKHC hasn’t done it alone, they had a lot of help from people like Mike Reeves, an executive at Cerner, a company out of Kansas City that specializes in setting up EHR systems.

“In the old way of doing business you had an illegible handwriting issue or an interpretation of the physician’s handwriting issue. Well that can’t happen under this system,” Reeves said.

He said the system will have automatic alerts that pop up if a patient is allergic to a drug or if two prescriptions would be dangerous if taken together.

“You know things like this are built into the system, which improves the overall quality of the healthcare provided,” he said.

Both Reeves and Hodges are seated at tables in the vast room. Each table represents a different department within the health corporation— complete with furious testers trying to find glitches.

“So for example at the physician’s table, where I’m at, there’s two physicians and there’s two Cerner employees who are design consultants who are helping us get everything absolutely right,” Hodges said.

YKHC plans on taking a few months to work out all the kinks, before unavailing the system officially on January 28th.

But when the EHR is finally rolled out, Howard says there is a backup system in case the Electronic record goes down.

“So we’ll have a backup system that involves paper. So they’ll be able to document as they always have on paper and communicate with us,” Hodges said.

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