IN THIS ARTICLE ...
A Web-based patient record system at The Ohio State University Medical Center dramatically speed up interactions with referring physicians.
Editor's note: This article is Part 2 of a two-part series on improving communication between inpatient hospitals and referring physicians. Part I was published in the September/October 2008, issue of The Physician Executive, Vol.34(5).
Information technology promises to make medical management easier, but sharing clinical information among health care providers remains a challenge. Referring physicians in private practice often complain about the difficulty of obtaining patient information once the patient has been admitted to a hospital.
Even though transfer of clinical information is extremely important, copying and sending that information--or making telephone calls--is time-consuming and expensive. The Ohio State University Medical Center (OSUMC) now offers an alternative solution to this problem: a secure Web-based system called DocLink that allows referring physicians to access patient information at any time from any computer with an Internet connection.
The adoption of electronic health records (EHR) among physicians and health centers shows great potential for speeding and simplifying the communication of clinical data among physicians. Federal regulations protect patient privacy, but can simultaneously hamper the potential of EHR.
The OSUMC, a large health organization of 1,700 practicing physicians and more than 12,000 referring physicians, set out to take advantage of its centralized physician database (CPD), a single, fully integrated master database of physician and referring physician information.
OSUMC utilized the CPD to design a Web-based system that meets the challenge of confidentially communicating pertinent patient information. The creation of the CPD had already provided the means for referring physicians to quickly receive patient information at their offices via secure automated faxing. The new system would provide physicians with the ability to obtain the same information from any location with Internet access.
Building the system
OSUMC includes seven inpatient hospitals and 36 primary and specialty care sites. Each year, the system chalks up more than 55,000 inpatient admissions and 884,000 outpatient visits, involving more than 12,000 outside physicians.
Even after the hospital system implemented an EHR, physicians continued to dictate and mail or fax reports to referrers. The paper-based approach was time-consuming for OSUMC staff and frustrating to referring physicians because results were often difficult to obtain, delayed, or incomplete.
How could OSUMC release only the pertinent information to these physicians without violating HIPAA privacy regulations?
The primary objectives driving the development of a new system were to provide referring physicians with:
1. Access to clinical results for patients they referred to OSUMC
2. The ability to follow their patients throughout the hospital course
It was further required that the Web-based system be easy to learn/use, secure and HIPAA compliant. The system needed to accommodate both inpatient and outpatient visits, operate in real time, and integrate with OSUMC's existing systems, which included products from several different vendors.
To accomplish these objectives OSUMC leveraged the talents of a multidisciplinary team made up of clinical practitioners, software...
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