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Physician Wins Prestigious Award by Using Electronic Records

(EMAILWIRE.COM, December 06, 2006 ) Rohnert Park CA -- One of 12 physicians given Minnesota Medical Association’s inaugural Leadership in Quality awards is Dr Tim Malling for introducing and developing electronic medical records for Paynesville Area Healthcare System, Minnesota, which has seven clinics and an emergency room.

But he did not win the prestigious award for drastically cutting costs or increasing income, two of the usual reasons why doctors are increasingly using computers for record-keeping. Instead he won it for improving health care.

“Having a system that produces logically-arranged and legible records that we can access at any time has made us better doctors,” Malling says.

“The system we chose – ChartWare -- allows us to do anything we want. I don’t think there is another electronic program out there that would meet the needs of a diverse group like ours. It does what we tell it to do rather than we having to do what it wants us to.”

The improvement can be seen most clearly in the practice’s emergency room where many patients arrive, as in hospitals everywhere, without any precise idea of what their most recent tests showed, what medications they take or even what procedures they have had.

“Sometimes they say they have had an x-ray when what they really had was an ultrasound or that they have had surgery instead of an endoscopy,” says Malling. “It’s common in ER medicine that you have only limited knowledge of the patient’s history so that you either make your best guess or start from scratch.”

Now, he says, the attending physician need only sit down at any computer to pull up the entire record, up-to-date to the patient’s last visit. “Obviously, that saves many potential mistakes.”

With the decision taken two years ago that from then on every note at Paynesville would be computerized, similar improvements are evident in routine patient visits. “When you put in information while the patient is in the same room, it is much more likely to be accurate than if you have to decipher your notes at a later date. Not only is the information fresh in your mind but you can ask the patient if what you are entering is correct.”

Malling uses a voice recognition system with his computer, so that patients actually hear what is going into their chart. “They are very receptive to spending two or three minutes on their initial visit getting it right, particularly when I tell them that this will save time for both them and any physician they see in the future.”

Malling also likes voice recognition, which fits snugly with the ChartWare system, because he can put everything in his own words, making the nuances and subtle distinctions that computerized systems typically cannot capture. Other doctors use handwriting recognition for the same purpose, he points out. “It’s another example of the system’s flexibility.”

It’s a relief to everyone, he adds, not to have to find and then extract information from paper charts. The specialists that patients are sent to like that too. “When someone arrives at one of our clinics with a suspected hip fracture, for example, we don’t fix it ourselves but while we are waiting for the ambulance we can have the patient’s full chart printed so that he can take it with him to the orthopedist.”

Malling says that even he didn’t realize how much easier it was to keep track until his personal computer went down for half a day. “It was unbelievable how slow it seemed, even in that short amount of time, to have to use paper charts again.”

Company: qwerty
Contact: Nat Crocker
Phone: 800-1234567
Email: nathan.crocker[@]


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