Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Researchers Plan to Further Improve VA's Unique and Invaluable Electronic Patient Record System

July 16, 2007

HOUSTON - On June 9, 2007, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) National Center for Patient Safety announced it had granted approval and funding for the Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies (HCQCUS) to become a Patient Safety Center of Inquiry (PSCI). The goal of this organization is to improve the process of electronic communication in ambulatory care; and thereby, improve patient safety in the VA ambulatory setting.

"The goal of this new center at the DeBakey VA is to improve the process of electronic communication in ambulatory care; and thereby, improve patient safety in the VA ambulatory setting" said Laura Petersen, M.D., M.P.H., HCQCUS director and director of the new PSCI.

Communication breakdown is an increasingly recognized preventable factor in medical mishaps and responsible for about two-thirds of Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations sentinel events. Researchers at the new Houston center will focus on communication breakdowns that can occur in the VA's electronic medical record, the Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS). 

CPRS is in place throughout the VA health care system and offers health care providers a complete electronic record covering all aspects of patient care, including reminders for preventive health care, electronic entry of pharmaceutical orders, display of laboratory results, consultation requests, x-rays, and pathology slides. The importance of this system was demonstrated after Hurricane Katrina. Medical information for every New Orleans VA patient was available at any VA medical center and by any VA physician nationwide in a matter of three days. The CPRS contains a notification system that providers use to send and receive information on clinically significant events.

"We will examine diagnostic problems that result from breakdowns in electronic notification, such as provider-to-provider communication of critical patient information through CPRS; thereby, improving upon an already state-of-the-art electronic health record for veterans." said Hardeep Singh, M.D., M.P.H., a HCQCUS researcher and co-director of the new PSCI.

Founded in 1990, HCQCUS is one of 15 VA-funded centers of excellence in health services research and development.  It is organized into four scientific programs: 1) health decision making and communication, 2) health services delivery and organization; 3) clinical epidemiology and outcomes; and 4) health policy and quality. The PSCI will be hosted by HCQCUS and share expertise and collaborators.

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