Application calls up records in minutes , helps avoid duplication
Ioannis Oikonomou, MD, (right), pictured with surgeon Vikram Reddy, MD, expects Care EverywhereTM to save time and money.
Around the time Digestive Diseases went live with the Epic electronic medical record (EMR) last January, Ioannis Oikonomou, MD, noticed a button on the office visit check-in screen that read ‘outside records.’ Curious, Dr. Oikonomou clicked on it and discovered one of Epic’s most powerful features: the ability to access a patient’s EMR almost anywhere in the Epic universe.
Care EverywhereTM, as the module is known, is currently being used by at least 113 organizations around the country. “Right from my desktop, and even with the patient in my office, I can get a whole chart from another Epic-based institution in five to ten minutes,” Dr. Oikonomou, a gastroenterologist, explained. “The speed is amazing.”
In the past, he said, the process of obtaining a patient’s medical records from another medical facility could take days—assuming phone calls and faxes yielded any records at all.
Process is secure and easy
Care EverywhereTM, of course, is a secure application that only works with Epic-to-Epic EMR transfers. But since many leading academic medical centers in the United States are Epic users, there’s a reasonable chance that patients will have an Epic EMR if they’ve moved to Connecticut after treatment elsewhere for a condition requiring the kind of specialized care that YMG offers.
“The process of obtaining an outside record is secure and easy,” said Timothy Cooney, the Yale New Haven Health System’s web solutions coordinator for the Epic project. “Patients and physicians can feel comfortable with it.”
Cooney worked with Epic systems and the projects application analysts to implement the software and coordinate a testing program with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He explained that whenever a provider wants to see whether an Epic EMR is available from another institution, the first step is to click the “outside records” button within a patient's encounter. This brings up a search window where the provider can type in the name of an institution to see if it is in the comprehensive list of medical centers using Care EverywhereTM. Once the institution is found and highlighted, the provider can then query the system for a specific patient.
The next step is to enter the reason for the query and to download and sign a HIPAA-compliant authorization form for the release of medical information. The provider must also enter an Epic-approved user name and password. “There are security checks and balances every step of the way,” said Cooney. “Audit trails are built right into the system.”
A wealth of critical information
When all the necessary hurdles have been cleared, the provider can view a wealth of critical clinical information, such as allergies, medications, immunizations, patient visit summaries, lab results and imaging studies. Dr. Oikonomou noted that this information can allow providers to avoid costly duplication of tests recently performed elsewhere.
It’s not perfect, he said. “If it could interface with all the EMRs everywhere, not just those connected with Epic, that would be the best,” said Dr. Oikonomou. “But it works very well. The ability to retrieve these records at any hour of the day or night and from any place with an Internet connection can save us time and money.”