EMMC information technology use lauded

Posted Dec. 16, 2008, at 9:53 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Eastern Maine Medical Center’s long-term commitment to information technology has earned national recognition. On Tuesday, Gov. John Baldacci joined hospital officials, IT vendors and others to celebrate EMMC’s designation as the recipient of the 2008 Nicholas E. Davies Organizational Award of Excellence.

The award, sponsored by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, recognizes excellence in the implementation of health information technology, especially electronic medical records. Only one award is given each year.

Deborah Carey Johnson, president and CEO of EMMC, said the recognition is a great distinction, as well as one that carries an important responsibility.

“We are committed to sharing what we’ve learned,” she said. “Others from around the world will come and take our practices back to their settings.” Since the award was first announced in October, she said, officials from a hospital in England and a hospital in Ohio have spent time at EMMC learning how to implement health care IT. More will come during 2009, Johnson said.

EMMC has been developing its electronic medical records system for more than 15 years, according to Dr. Eric Hartz, a practicing oncologist and the hospital’s chief medical information officer. A standardized medical records program now is used at every hospital and outpatient practice affiliated with Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, with medical information on each patient — including diagnoses, medications, laboratory results, X-rays and more — available throughout the system.

EMHS is the corporate parent of EMMC, The Acadia Hospital in Bangor, The Aroostook Medical Center in Presque Isle, Blue Hill Memorial Hospital, C.A. Dean Memorial Hospital & Nursing Home in Greenville, Inland Hospital in Waterville and Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield. It also is the parent of numerous out-patient medical practices, nursing homes and health-related entities in the northern half of Maine. Portions of EMHS medical records also are shared with the statewide Health InfoNet project, which serves a network of medical providers, including major hospitals, outpatient centers and a medical laboratory. Health InfoNet is midway through a three-year pilot project and is expected to expand in the future.

In addition, Hartz said, EMMC has for the last year been using a computerized provider order entry program that allows physicians to write orders electronically for medications, tests and other treatments, helping avoid errors and omissions in patient care.

The hospital also recently implemented “virtual intensive care unit” technology that allows nurses and doctors to provide computer-based backup oversight of patients in the ICU from a remote location. Currently, medical personnel at EMMC keep tabs on patients in their own ICU and at Sebasticook Valley Hospital’s two-bed special care unit. At least six more small rural hospitals, including hospitals in Millinocket, Machias and Dover-Foxcroft, are expected to participate in the program in the coming year.

Other digital technologies used at EMMC and its affiliates have standardized patient care, improved safety, reduced the demand for blood transfusions and significantly cut down on the time between when a medication is ordered and when it is administered, according to Hartz. Technology also makes it possible to gather statistical information, such as how many patients with diabetes have had appropriate blood work or how many are clinically obese.

“Health care information technology is a critical piece of the national health care structure,” said Baldacci, who was taking a break from dealing with the prolonged power outage in southern Maine that resulted from last week’s ice storm. It also is a key component of his Dirigo Health reforms, he said.

EMMC’s accomplishments help ensure “Maine truly maintains a leadership role in health care,” Baldacci said.

EMMC will receive the Davies award at a ceremony in Chicago in April 2009.

On the Web: www.himss.org/davies

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