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Hospitals’ EMR switch still has kinks

Marketplace Staff Jul 24, 2009

Hospitals’ EMR switch still has kinks

Marketplace Staff Jul 24, 2009


Bill Radke: President Obama has said he wants the health care industry to get away from paper records and switch in the next five years to EMR — electronic medical records. A lot of hospitals and clinics are way ahead of his five-year deadline. From WUWM in Milwaukee, Erin Toner reports one hospital there is flipping a big digital switch today.

Erin Toner: Michael Hiller has terrible nausea after his latest round of chemo, and has been at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee for about a week.

Michael Hiller: I was diagnosed with advanced throat cancer back in January of 2005. So every day since then has been a steady uphill climb, you know, fighting for my life I guess.

Toner: You have this wrist band on, and I understand they scan that?

Hiller: A bar code type of situation, yeah. It basically looks like a bar code, little abstract painting.

One click on the bar code brings up all of Hiller’s medications. Starting today, that one click will bring up his entire chart. That’s because the hospital is making a switch from handwritten patient notes to electronic records that can be accessed anywhere.

Doctor Dennis Maiman has been involved in the transition:

Dennis Maiman: There are admittedly those who’ll say that they don’t want to bother with it, that they don’t like computers, that they don’t like . . . that’s tough. That’s tough. If you want to practice medicine in the not-so-distant future and you don’t want to use the EMR, you will not be practicing medicine. That’s the way it is.

Maiman is chief of neurosurgery at Froedtert. He says the biggest benefit with EMRs is better communication. Everyone involved in a patient’s care knows right away what’s going on, what drugs the person’s taking and what tests were done. Dr. Maiman says electronic records save time and leave a lot less room for costly medical mistakes.

Maiman: Now when I talk to a patient, I can type in a message, what I’ve said to the patient so that when that patient calls back the next day to talk to one of the nurses cause he or she didn’t understand what I said, there it is.

Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee has spent $70 million so far on its EMR project. Another local system has spent more than $150 million.

There are still some hurdles. In Milwaukee, the different systems don’t necessarily talk to each other, and that’s the next big challenge. Officials say an integrated system across different facilities could save billions by lowering the number of duplicate tests and treatments.

In Milwaukee, I’m Erin Toner for Marketplace.

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