Success key No. 4: Collaborating competitors
A major frustration for hospitals has been trying to access information from previous treatments at other hospitals that could be helpful to avoid redundant or unnecessary tests.
But that is changing in Maryland where competing hospitals are sharing information as well as among doctors' offices. Doctors can access operative notes, discharge summaries, consultations, lab reports, and x-rays from a surgery that took place a short time earlier at a different hospital, with the impact of improving care for ED patients, says Del Vecchio.
The Chesapeake Regional Information System for Our Patients is formally designated as Maryland's statewide health information exchange and has also been named Maryland's Regional Extension Center for Health. The nonprofit membership corporation works to help healthcare providers use EHRs in a meaningful way and to enable providers to share clinical data with other providers and hospital systems across the state.
"From a throughput perspective, the biggest impact of this is when you have medical records to review," says Del Vecchio. "Traditionally you would have to get a signed release, fax it to the other facility, and hope that someone is available to pull the records and send them to you. You try to find the necessary information. The whole process could take hours. Now you automatically find a patient's visit from another hospital using a medical record" available 24 hours a day.
Del Vecchio says that the exchange program is particularly useful in thwarting unnecessary tests. He cited the example of an exchange of data that was particularly helpful related to a patient with abdominal pains who had been in a motor vehicle accident two days earlier and treated at another ED in Maryland, so there were x-rays and CT scans. "I found all her lab results and other clinical information quickly, and that they had done a thorough workup," Del Vecchio says. "That process could have taken hours—if I was lucky enough to get the reports faxed over. By not having unnecessary tests or procedures, you've already improved throughput and patient care."
This article appears in the May 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.