MOUNT VERNON — The fact that Kwi Holland is going on vacation speaks well of progress made in the month since Knox Community Hospital began to phase in a $6 million conversion to electronic record keeping.
Holland, who serves the hospital as vice president of information services, has spent the past two years watching over the project. A complex EMC storage area network server has been installed. Hundreds of computers have been loaded with a complex but user-friendly software package, called Paragon, developed by McKesson Medical-Surgical. Fifty “super users” have been trained, and in turn assigned to help 500 of their co-workers come up to speed.
The registration process, scheduling, patient assessments and medication management are among key areas where pens have been replaced by keyboards, log books by bar-code scanners and paper files with digital records. Expansion of the system to fully cover all areas of the KCH campus, as well as off-site offices, will take the better part of a year. But Holland is well pleased with the first phase of the project.
“It has actually gone a little better than expected,” Holland said. “It’s a sequential process, a bit like building a house. We had to stay on top of the infrastructure and new equipment, and worked really hard on training and communication. Deploying a new system is always tough, with bugs and things to fine tune. The key was getting everyone involved and to the point they can navigate through the systems confidently.”
While younger nurses and staff members grew up using computers, the learning curve has been more daunting for veteran health-care providers.
“Any time you have to learn new techniques involving patient care, you want to feel confident and do it right,” Holland said. “The older generation may be a little slower picking it up, but they are embracing the system.”
Director of Patient Access Amy Webster and Scheduling Registrar Kerra Carpenter lead a 33-member team responsible for patient registration and scheduling at KCH. They are the front-line personnel who create patients’ first impressions of the hospital, and Webster said that surveys indicate patient satisfaction has improved.
“We were able to practice with the system in advance, and all in all, it is smoother and faster,” she said. “We went from 10-20 minutes registering a new patient to 5-7 minutes, and it’s even quicker for existing patients.”
Once a patient’s information has been keyed or scanned into the Paragon system, the next time around it just needs to be checked for changes.
Carpenter said the hardest thing about the new system has been breaking old habits. “The physical part of patient care hasn’t changed, but our medical records and charting are all new,” she said.
“The training process was the hardest thing for me, but I haven’t felt a lot of stress and we are able to work more efficiently,” Webster added.
For legal reasons, patient consent forms and information on privacy rights will continue to be provided on paper. Otherwise, the hospital’s new system will greatly reduce paperwork and replace it with comprehensive, searchable digital records.