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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Local Hospitals Follow VA's Lead With Computerized Patient Records

July 12, 2005

July 14, 2005

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As more and more doctors and hospitals, like Houston’s Methodist Hospital System and St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System, are converting paper medical records to electronic versions, the computer system in place at the MEDVAMC since 1999 demonstrates the VA is ahead of the game with its unmatched patient care technology.

CPRS allows Murphy’s health care providers to quickly review everything from his prescriptions and his X-ray results to his glucose levels during his last ten primary care appointments. He also firmly believes the MEDVAMC

computer system allows his health care providers to better work together to provide him with the very best health care.

"The patient computer system at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center makes me feel extra comfortable about getting my medical care here. No matter what clinic I go to when, they can pull my records up and make sure everything is going smoothly, and that I am receiving the right treatment," said Murphy.

CPRS has allowed the MEDVAMC to dramatically progress in its management and utilization of patient information. The patient directly benefits from the greater accuracy, consistency, and speed the system has brought about.

Even the computer records of other hospitals do not stand up to the capabilities of the VA’s CPRS. For example, the writing of progress notes is a feature that cannot be found in other systems. In addition, the computerized physician order entry feature has been shown to reduce medication errors and improve patient safety. This is also not routinely available in other systems.

"Since its introduction, CPRS has revolutionized the practice of medicine in our medical center. The providers’ task of ordering and tracking tests, consultations, procedures, and medications has been made much easier. This system has made patient care safer and more efficient, and has saved precious time," said Hardeep Singh, M.D., M.P.H., MEDVAMC general medicine staff physician and a patient safety clinical investigator.

Singh has observed, firsthand, the difference this computer system has made. CPRS is a system that stores a complete record of a patient’s medical history. All clinicians at the MEDVAMC can access this information immediately.

"For example, if a doctor wants to check the date of a patient’s most recent appointment and what happened during the appointment, the information can be effortlessly retrieved. Information such as a physician’s notes, a patient’s blood pressure history, previous surgeries, or blood test results are also readily available," said Singh.

With CPRS, the provider can order lab tests, medications, diets, radiology tests and procedures, record a patient’s allergies or adverse reactions to medications, and request and track consults. CPRS supports clinical decision-making and enables the provider to review and analyze patient data. If there is any indication of unhealthy results, CPRS automatically sends a physician an alert in order to ensure that the problem is quickly tackled.

Different departments around the MEDVAMC are directly connected through the system. This way, the radiologist has immediate first-hand clinical information when a doctor orders an X-ray. This reduces the delay between patient appointments, and diagnosis and treatment.

Health care providers at the MEDVAMC go through extensive training so they can use CPRS to the fullest advantage of the patient. Clinicians can smoothly maneuver through the user-friendly system. Templates make information on the screen easy to read.

When a patient record is pulled up, basic information such as name, social security number, and birth date appear. When information is added, it is promptly stored and can be quickly retrieved. Health care providers input information into a database simply by typing into a screen with various interfaces that clearly display patient data.

In the past, the documentation of patient data at the MEDVAMC involved stacks of paperwork. Even one missing document from a patient’s chart can cause difficulty.

MEDVAMC clinicians and patients are thankful that paperwork is a thing of the past. Doctors no longer scribble illegible medication orders onto slips of paper. The ability to precisely communicate with CPRS has substantially reduced medical errors of all types.

"Veterans do not have to worry about the confidentiality of their information. CPRS is equipped with multiple safeguards to keep information between only patients and authorized clinicians. It is also supported by a series of backup systems ensuring data is not accidentally erased or lost," said Kathy Taylor, chief, VistA Services, Information Management Services.

Veterans, like Murphy, can rest assured that MEDVAMC health care providers are working together to provide the very best health care, and the MEDVAMC offers the very latest in medical information processing technology and security.