First UCSF Clinics Implement Electronic Health Records

April 28, 2011
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UCSF implemented the first electronic health record APEX at its Mount Zion campus on April 6, transforming how health care providers, staff and patients exchange information.

The system, called EPIC at UCSF, puts increased emphasis on patient safety and medical error prevention by creating one electronic patient chart that's accessible across the institution, increasing the continuity of care. By housing all patient information in one electronic database, it eliminates the duplication of tests, sends alerts to warn of allergies to medications or contradictions and creates an easily accessible mechanism for sharing information.

"I can't emphasize enough of how it improves the retrieval of information on a specific patient," said Dr. David Buchholz, the ambulatory physician who took the lead on the APEX Project.

The system also enables quick access to patient medical information such as prescriptions, visit notes and lab results. All practice management, including billing and communications will be handled by the new electronic system.

"We've received some very positive feedback from everyone across the board from patients who have used the portal to request appointments to some of the office staff who have said their jobs are more efficient," said Dr. Michael Blum, chief medical information officer at UCSF Medical Center. "Providers have already done e-prescribing and said that was straight forward and worked well."

As part of APEX, a new patient portal, called UCSF MyChart, has been created. The portal provides a secure system for patients to request an appointment, communicate with doctors and clinic staff, and view lab test results.

"The idea is the quality of output is much better, the notes are better, orders are readable, documentations are more comprehensive, the whole process is better, which is in turn better for patients," said Blum. "Patients can now email through a patient portal, see medications, instructions and lab results online. It really empowers the patients to help manage themselves rather than just being a recipient."

The technology is part of a major push by the Obama administration to transition all doctors and hospitals to electronic medical records within five years. Beginning this year, hospitals and clinics can receive federal funds of up to $11 million per hospital and $63,750 per eligible physician to offset the cost of the electronic systems that meet federal standards. The funds for electronic records were included in the 2009 federal economic stimulus package. Hospitals and physicians who don't comply by 2015 will face penalties such as cuts to Medicare payments.

The next wave of UCSF clinics implementing the electronic health record system will occur in June and July and extend until the beginning of 2012, with the full conversion of the medical center's clinical enterprise on the Parnassus campus. The project was executed in just 14 months, what Buchholz calls "probably one of the biggest and most ambitious projects UCSF has ever done in terms of timing."

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