Oakwood's 'EPIC' transition will improve patient care, safety

Oakwood Healthcare, Inc. is on an 'EPIC' transition to a electronic medical records system that will integrate more user-and-patient-friendly technology, gather patient information into one location and help protect it at the same time.

Doctors and nurses unveiled some of the new technology and explained how it will help provide better care to patients when the EPIC software system goes online at the Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center (OHMC) in Dearborn on Aug. 1. Using equipment such as tablets, laptops, barcode scanners, microphones that will allow doctors to dictate recommendations directly and Workstations on Wheels (WOWs), doctors will be able better record patient information and communicate more effectively.

“The beauty of this software is that it will collect all these pieces together,” he said. “No longer will there be these isolated pockets of information,” said Matthew Zimmie, MD, medical director of information technology for Oakwood.

The scanners will be synced up to patient wristbands and ensure that patients get the correct medication and the proper doses. Equipment such as Smart IV Pumps have a computerized library that will monitor drug doses, as well, and perform the complex calculations that will ensure patients get proper dosage no matter what their body weight. The WOWs, tablets and Rovers—a windows compatible lightweight computer device—provide clinician access to patient information and allows them to share it with patients at the bedside, eliminating the need for paper charts.

The new tools and technology will improve communication between physicians on a patient’s care team, according to Eliezer DeLeon, MD, medical director of care management for Oakwood Healthcare.

“The easier it is to communicate, the better. There will be no delay in the delivery of treatment—or even testing. That’s the key,” said DeLeon. “You can dictate your recommendations and the care team can actually communicate at the same time.”

Alan Brockhurst, MD, a trauma doctor and critical care surgeon based out of the Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center, agreed. He said as soon as the real-time availability of information is crucial to improving patient care.

“If I’m at the bedside taking care of the patient, you have to be able to get the orders to the pharmacy, to radiology—all around the hospital,” said Brockhurst. “This allows for instantaneous communication.”

That will provide surgeons with more important information prior to surgery and provide more details for follow-up care afterward, said Raj Rajaraman, MD, a surgeon.

“It will allow for better communication with other physicians to get all the information that is required before a patient goes to surgery, an also for follow up care,” said Rajaraman. “It’s very vital to the continuity of care.”

The new software improves the security of patient information, as well, said Zimmie. Because the records will be electronic, they will be type-written and standardized, which means doctors’ notes and prescriptions will be easier to decipher, he said, which means a reduced possibility of errors.

Patient safety will also be improved through restricted access to those files, he added. Every person on a patient’s care team will have a different security profile that allows them access to the information they need to perform their duties—but keeps them from accessing information they do not need. A radiologist can only access imaging information, for example; a nutritionist, only dietary. The passwords will be changed frequently. Computers will automatically log themselves off after short periods of inactivity. And any information accessed through them does not reside on the individual piece of hardware, but on an off-site server that is also encrypted, Zimmie said.

“There is no information stored on the device—it’s all stored on a secure server,” said Zimmie. “Even if someone managed to steal a doctor’s laptop and hack into it, you won’t be able to get to any patient information.” The system log-ins are also regularly audited, according to Zimmie, to provide a documented trail of which caregiver accessed patient information and when. There is no way to document who looked at a paper chart, or why. 

“Every time someone accesses an electronic medical record, it is tracked to a specific log-in,” said Zimmie. “It’s certainly a big step in the right direction regarding patient privacy.”

Ultimately, it means that physicians can keep better track of their patients’ health, no matter where they may be, said Zimmie.

“In the ‘paper chart world’ if I had a patient that I was concerned about, I would have to call in and have someone read me the chart,” he said. “Now I can access it from my office, or my home. It’s anywhere I have Internet access.”

CUTLINES: Nick Jentz, RN, BSN, (above, left) and Matthew Zimmie, MD, medical director of information technology for Oakwood Healthcare, demonstrate the use of new technology.
(Below) An example of what the electronic medical record will look like displayed on a computer screen.