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Electronic Medical Records Empower the Patient

The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution. Bertrand Russell
By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
April 3, 2012

I’ve asked St. Luke’s Health System Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Marc Chasin to share his perspective on our myStLuke's electronic medical record system. His observations are presented here. I’ve introduced Dr. Chasin in a previous post, and you’ll be hearing more from him and other members of our executive team as our journey of transformation continues. 

 The well-stated observation by British philosopher Bertrand Russell I believe is one of the reasons I am so proud to be a part of St. Luke’s. The electronic health record that we are in the midst of implementing and the benefits it will bring to health care is one of my passions; you could say that our EHR is a solution to problems faced by hospitals and health care today.  But more significant to me, the reason I chose to join the team at St. Luke’s was the more profound ability we have to state the challenges faced in health care today in a way that will allow an effective solution. 

Dr. Don Berwick outlined some of these challenges in our recent health care summit. Overtreatment, failure to coordinate care, human error, and excessive health care prices are just a few of the problems we wish to overcome. But in articulating these problems, we are able to create a solution.

This solution is our Triple Aim: better health, better care, and lower cost. Plainly stated, the problem is that patients deserve good, affordable medical care wherever they seek help, and physicians deserve to have access to information that allows them to provide this high level of care. myStLukes is all about patients: helping them, empowering them, and ensuring that they feel as safe with us as they feel at home in their own beds. The EHR is their record, it is OUR record. Most of us have been patients ourselves at some point in our lives. I think it is important to remember that to err might be human, but it is what we try to overcome in the field of medicine. On two separate instances, I have firsthand experience of avoidable medical errors. These could have been avoided through the use of a reliable EHR. In the first instance my wife, who is also a physician, spotted a wrong medication that was being prescribed for our newborn daughter. And recently, a very fragile computerized network collapsed twice while I was in the process of a medical evaluation. I couldn’t help but think, what about all of the cardiac patients relying on those networks during surgery? Electronic records and information are things we need to be able to not just HAVE, but we need to be able to DEPEND on them.  

As is true of all change, implementation of an EHR is not an easy process. It can be arduous and time-consuming. At St. Luke’s, implementation to date has touched a significant amount of the organization and easily tops more than a half-million hours worked since the inception of the project. I am grateful that our physicians and team members have had faith in our organization and in me over this nearly two-year process. As we set our eyes on the future of better health and better care at a lower cost, myStLuke’s is an integral part of this vision. As we complete our first wave, I continue to be impressed with the quality of our physicians and staff. They are some of the first in the country to undergo such a weighty transition, and have done so gallantly. I also am thankful for the leadership shown by those physicians in our pilot wave, St. Luke’s IT department and the myStLuke’s build team. The multi-disciplinary effort, involving everyone from food service, to the division medical directors, to System President and CEO, Dr. David Pate, has been spectacular.   

Change is not easy, but it is only through change that we can improve. Change is often synonymous with chaos, and the efforts of all members of our team, with their laser-focus on our patients and their ability to maintain a sense of humor in a time of huge upheaval, have not gone unnoticed. This hard work is the bread and butter of what makes St. Luke’s what it is: an organization on the forefront of providing better health care for our patients. I am absolutely honored to be a part of St. Luke’s Health System.  

As we continue to implement and move towards a fully integrated EHR, it is important for us to keep in mind that we are transforming the way we care for our patients. When patients can see their own information for themselves, better communication is an outcome, which will result in better care. myStLuke’s is a fundamental element in our vision of delivering integrated, seamless, and patient-centered quality care. It also will improve efficiency for our physicians, and give them more time to do what they do best: take wonderful care of our patients and be active members of our wonderful community.

About The Author

David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., is president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.