FMH in elite company with electronic data system

System will link rural, metropolitan hospitals

New computer systems are online at Fairfield Memorial Hospital this September using a new computer system to improve Hospital Management Information Systems.

The system helps link rural hospitals with those in metropolitan areas using electronic record databases. In fact, the Cerner/Tribridge system is the same one used by Palmetto Health Richland.

FMH CEO Mike Williams said the system increases productivity and effectiveness. If a patient visited a Columbia hospital, for instance, that hospital’s MRI records could be available electronically to FMH and eliminate the need to duplicate test procedures.

The computer technology is part of an initiative to cut and control costs. Williams said the trend is coming about from the Affordable Care Act that requires health care systems to work together to provide patients with continuity of care, including the use of specialized nurse navigators who follow up with patients to make sure they take medicines as prescribed and that they attend follow up medical visits.

FMH is one of the few critical access hospitals in South Carolina to have the technology from Cerner. It is a significant purchase, but it is expected that about half of the cost will be covered by CMS Medical and Medicaid programs.

“In addition to improving our patient care, this system will improve our hospital finances,” Williams said.

If FMH did not have the new computing system then starting this year Medicare and Medicaid payments would decline 1 percent.

Around 25 people have been involved at FMH on the Cerner implementation team, including Janet Kiburz, the project manager for implementation. Her team’s focus is on challenges unique to rural hospitals. The staff have been working with FMH since October 2012, and Kiburz said it is their goal to help FMH bring the same technology and care that a larger hospital would have.

“The two biggest challenges I see facing rural hospitals are both financial and human resources,” she said. “The federal government is helping with the financial side by providing incentives and covering some of the EHR purchase costs. On the human resources side, it can be difficult for small hospitals since so many people wear several hats. They may be caring for patients, managing one (or more) departments, and also working with our teams on designing, training, and testing the computer system.”

The FMH employees have worked hard to embrace the new technology, according to Williams. By changing to totally electronic health records, Williams said the hospital will increase efficiency. Physicians and staff will fill out templates on the computer and that ensures record keeping is uniform and accurate.

“I am glad we have (the new system) and to see us improve,” said Sandra McGraw, a registered nurse at FMH. “This will aid in patient safety and it gives me more peace of mind to provide state-of-the-art care (using technology like this).”

Patients on the floor become familiar with the systems bar codes which they wear on their wrists.

Data collected by the system helps hospital managers assess bed occupancy, patient lists and other administration information. That data also records inventory levels. Nursing staff will scan the bar code of a product needed, such as bandages, and then scan the patient’s arm band.

The data goes into a billing account specifically for that bar code. The system improves report turnaround times and reduces transcription errors as well. Patients can use the system to educate themselves about diseases, conditions, treatments and outcomes.