BLUE HILL, Maine — Blue Hill Memorial Hospital is completing preparations that will link it electronically with other hospitals in the Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems.
The hospital is scheduled to go live with the EMHS Together Project on Oct. 1, according to Tim Garrity, president and CEO at the Blue Hill facility.
The system will allow providers throughout the seven EMHS affiliated hospitals to have access to local patient medical records, ensuring that the information will be available no matter where in the system that patient seeks care, Garrity said.
With the new system, those records will be instantly available on a secure online system and will follow patients as they move through the health care system, from the outpatient physician’s office through a variety of tests and examinations and into the hospital, if necessary.
The electronic patient records contain old laboratory, radiology, medication, emergency department, nursing, respiratory therapy, patient orders, patient schedules and other clinical information for each patient, Garrity said. Each electronic record also has builtin safeguards that electronincally check medication dose ranges, medication allergies and drug interactions, along with other safety checks.
“This brings an electronic patient record with advanced clinical capability to the doctors, nurses and other clinicians at Blue Hill,” Garrity said Thursday. “It is an important improvement for the quality and safety of our patients.”
EMHS has been working with the system for approximately 10 years, constantly updating and improving it and bringing affiliated hospitals on line. With Blue Hill, there will be seven hospitals that will use the single, unified patient record. The others are Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Acadia Hospital in Bangor, The Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle, Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville, Inland Hospital in Waterville and Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield.
The upgrades at the Blue Hill hospital will cost an estimated $1.8 million. EMHS will cover $1.4 million of those costs, and BHMH will pay $400,000.
Garrity said the electronic records system was one of the major benefits of affiliating with EMHS.
“As a small, rural hospital, this is something we never could have done on our own,” he said.
Although physicians have been working with some elements of the records system for some time now, Dr. Richard Hines of Blue Hill Family Medicine, who also works in the hospital’s emergency room, said that having the system integrated with the other hospitals in the system will improve how Blue Hill can treat its patients.
“This will improve our capabilities to work with our patients’ health care data,” Hines said. “I’m looking forward to it. This can only help us provide care for our patients better and more efficiently.”
The system provides for the smooth flow of information to all the health care providers who need it and also allows for remote consultations with specialists using a patient’s latest clinical information.
Parts of the system already are operational, said Hines, who consulted with a Bangor physician about a patient whose recent X-rays had been stored in the system. When Hines called, the Bangor physician already had reviewed the X-rays and the two doctors were able to discuss their concerns about the patient’s condition while viewing the same information.
The project has taken a lot of time and effort with the hospital working to keep all staff and employees up to date on what has been happening and providing training on the new equipment and procedures.
As part of the Together Project, patients who receive service at BHMH’s primary care and specialty clinics will use the Eastern Maine Medical Center preregistration service. According to Deb Turner, the hospital’s vice president of physician practice, the preregistration process will take place over the telephone.
“When the patient is called before their appointment to confirm, staff members also will preregister them for the visit,” Turner said.
That process will include updating patient information including insurance information, which, she said, can be a time-consuming and sometimes stressful process for some patients. Processing that information ahead of time also will allow the hospital to confirm coverage with the insurance provider before the patient visit.