Experts say e-records are improving patient care

The bedside computer monitoring system launched in an intensive-care unit gives doctors better insights into patients needs, according to a hospital official.

Medical experts today touted their success in using electronic information systems to improve patient care.

Comment on this article in The Forum.David Liss, vice president for government relations at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, explained how a bedside computer monitoring system launched in the hospital's intensive-care section gave doctors better insights into patients needs and offered "evidence-based" advice on treatment strategies.

"We went from a system that was created for bedside monitoring to one that was guiding us," Liss said at a forum sponsored by Health IT Now, a group lobbying for the creation of a national electronic health information communication network. Liss explained that the bedside system, which stores patient medical histories and provides summaries of their daily vital signs, is now deployed throughout Columbia Presbyterian.

"Using this system, [we] changed the tracks of care in the hospital in a very significant way," he said.

Chuck Goux, vice president of information technology for Golden Living, a Fort Smith, Arkansas-based nursing home chain with facilities in 24 states, said his company had switched from a paper to computer-based system in the last several years. He said the system allowed medical personnel in the facilities to "push a button, find out what needs to be known (about a patient) and act on it." He added that "to have this information at your fingertips is a tremendous asset."

He said the computerized system enabled Golden Living to evacuate more than a dozen nursing homes in the Gulf Coast area after Hurricane Katrina without losing any patient records because they were all stored electronically.

Vickie Estrin, a senior consultant for the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health in Tennessee, described the operations of a computerized health information exchange system based in Memphis that tracks more than a million people in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi and processes 88,000 lab reports a day. The forum was also attended by Roy Beverage, of U.S. Oncology, a Washington, D.C.-based group that has assembled a database pooling information form more than 1,100 cancer treatment specialists.

Health IT Now is a coalition of patient advocacy organization, medical and business groups chaired by former Sen. John Breaux, D-La., and former Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn. Legislation requiring the development of federal standards for the nationwide health information network, coupled with financial incentives for states to join it, has been introduced by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy.