by Joelle Moran
Rural community health facilities often lack the resources of their urban counterparts, especially when it comes to technology.
And President Barack Obama’s push for electronic medical records (EMR) by 2015 is driving a huge market to convert hospitals and physicians’ offices to seamlessly integrated IT systems.
One company on the forefront of serving this technological push in rural communities is Medicine Bow Technologies (MBT). The Laramie, Wyo.-based company was formed in 2006 after leaders at Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie realized they needed an integrated electronic platform to deliver health care - a way to bring all of their software configurations into one seamless system.
After extensive research, the Ivinson board determined it would be most cost-effective and feasible to create a shared service provider to support costs of these new systems among multiple locations.
MBT became that provider as an independent technology corporation led by individuals from the Laramie community, the University of Wyoming and Ivinson Memorial Hospital.
One of the company’s main roles is to service Meditech systems - an EMR system used nationwide that follows patients as they move throughout the hospital - for hospitals across Wyoming.
The company is also looking to assist undeserved areas in Eastern Colorado, western Nebraska, western Kansas and Idaho.
"The real payoff is in patient safety and patient care," Bill Winn, CIO of Ivinson Memorial Hospital and director of operations of MBT, said of the shift to electronic medical records.
For example, Winn said, the Meditech system used in hospitals such as Ivinson can perform critical checks such as drug-to-drug checks when different physicians prescribe drugs that conflict. If there is a possible drug interaction or problem, the system won’t allow the physician to enter the order. The system may also require a patient’s arm band and bag of blood for a transfusion to be scanned, insuring it is the right type of blood for that patient.
"There are really some pluses coming back on patient safety," Winn said. "That is the primary reason for going through all of this is patient care and patient safety."
From the physician standpoint, electronic medical records provide the same benefits of quickly cross-checking drug interactions or safety for specific conditions, such as pregnancy. These records also allow doctors to access a patient’s information anytime and anywhere, said Luke Schneider, Medicine Bow Technologies’ CEO.
"It’s access and being able to share that information along with others as well," he said.
MBT also provides picture-archiving communications systems (PACs), which digitize radiologic images. Rather than looking at X-rays under lights, physicians can view the results on computer screens.
Allscripts is MBT’s integrated IT system designed to serve physicians’ practices, which charts patient visits electronically from check-in and billing to lab results and prescriptions.
From the nursing perspective, Schneider said computers and EMRs are easier to work with than paper charts and allow multiple users to access records, which is especially helpful in hospitals.
"When one nurse has the chart, nobody else has access to it when it’s on paper," Schneider said. "Someone may have left it in the OR or OB room, and then nobody has access to that chart.
"When it’s electronic, it doesn’t matter. They can view what’s going on right then and there. It’s all right at your fingertips."
But making all of these technological advancements is meaningless if they don’t mesh well with the clinical world. Winn and Schneider, who both have medical backgrounds, say understanding the clinical reality is crucial to implementing MBT’s systems.
That’s why MBT’s staff of 11 includes RNs. In fact, two nurses who worked while the Meditech system was implemented became clinical experts and went to work for MBT.
Winn said it’s much easier to teach the technical side rather than how nursing works, and that nurses are extremely helpful in developing systems.
"You can’t take an IT person and drop them into the medical world as easy as you can teach a nurse the IT side," Schneider said.
"Having that ability to understand workflow throughout the clinical side is fantastic when working with IT systems."