March 25th, 2014

A yearlong electronic health record and data conversion is set to go live at Great River Health Systems Tuesday, April 1. It’s the health system’s largest project since the opening of Great River Medical Center and the Eastman and Mercy plazas in 2000.

“This has been a tremendous undertaking,” said Mark Richardson, president and CEO, Great River Health Systems. “After we moved to this campus in 2000, I told our employees they would never again experience anything this significant in their careers. I spoke too soon. Converting to a new electronic health record and data system is the electronic equivalent of building and moving to a new hospital.”

The new system will improve the efficiency and safety of care by condensing patient records to one source, preventing unnecessary tests and providing an online portal for patients to view their medical records. Examples of how the system will benefit staff and patients include:

  • Access to previous symptoms
  • Accurate, real-time results
  • Better communication among providers
  • Better provider-to-patient communication
  • Better supply management
  • Evidence-based clinical practice promotion and support
  • Improved financial performance
  • Improved measurements of efficiency, quality, and patient and employee satisfaction
  • Less manual data collection
  • Patient-safety focus
  • Repeat laboratory test prevention
  • Single medicine list

“In the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve bought several systems for single purposes because that’s all that was available then,” said Gary Davis, director, Information Systems. “We’re on the same campus, but we’ve been miles apart in information systems technology.”

Hospital departments and clinics can share some patient information now, but employees have to log on to each system and retrieve information differently. The new systems’ capabilities will eliminate independent systems at Great River Home Health, Great River Medical Center, Great River Klein Center and all health system clinics.

“The new system will close the gap between data sources,” Davis said. “For example, an emergency room physician will have immediate access to a patient’s entire clinical record in the system.”

Great River Health Systems’ search for an integrated software system began more than two years ago. The first step was evaluating what the nation’s top health systems were using. Great River Health Systems selected solutions developed by Cerner Corporation, a global supplier of health care information technology solutions, services, devices and hardware. A team from Cerner made its first trip to West Burlington about a year and a half ago.

“We wanted Cerner to listen to our employees to learn what works well with our existing systems and what could be better,” Davis said.

Besides bringing Cerner’s teams here, Great River Health Systems sent staff to Cerner’s headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., for training and systems testing.

“Between June and November last year, we sent more than 100 employees to Kansas City four times for weeklong sessions at Cerner’s headquarters,” said Christin Pritchard, manager, Clinical Information Systems. “The purpose of these trips was to break down barriers in our existing processes and systems, and make design decisions from the ground up for the new system.”

“While in Kansas City, our staff ran through real-time demonstrations of potential designs to confirm that they’ll work and to see how these designs may affect other areas of the health system,” said Cody Powell, system analyst. “Since our last Kansas City trip in November, our staff has been involved in intense testing and training sessions here to verify and learn the new system.”

Although the new electronic health record and data management system will streamline how patients receive care, Great River Health Systems realizes the new processes will cause delays for patients.

“Even with all the training our staff has had, there’ll be a learning curve that will cause delays, such as people waiting longer in line for registration or to see their providers,” Davis said. “In time, our staff will find the new system easier to use and the delays will ease. During training, they’ve noticed it’s more intuitive and proactive. Using it will be more push than pull.”

“Besides the necessary information for their hospital or clinic visits, our customers will need to bring some patience as we learn the new system during the first few months,” Richardson said. “This new system offers patients many positives but, as it was with the hospital move, it will take time for us to grow comfortable with such an extensive project.”


Patient portal gives patients greater, timelier access to health information

A visible part of the electronic health record and data-management conversion for patients will be the health systems’ patient portal: MyGreatRiver. The portal, which also launches April 1, will offer patients a convenient and secure website to help manage their health. MyGreatRiver lets patients connect with their caregivers, request appointments, check test results as they become available and view personal health information.

MyGreatRiver is for routine health management. Patients should not use MyGreatRiver to send messages requiring urgent attention. For medical emergencies, patients should call 911 or their caregivers’ offices immediately.

Patients can sign up for MyGreatRiver at registration points in Great River Medical Center and all Great River Health Systems clinics, or in the hospital’s Health Information Management Department and Patient Financial Services-Patient Billing.

Through MyGreatRiver, patients can:

  • Manage appointments – Patients can check, ask to reschedule or cancel appointments, and request a new appointment without picking up the telephone.
  • Review medical history – Patients can find appointment instructions, medicines, allergies, immunization records and more.
  • View test results – Most laboratory reports will be available online for patients to view after the tests are released. Only tests performed at, or facilitated by, a Great River Health Systems laboratory will appear in patients’ electronic health records.
  • Manage other accounts – With proper consent, patients can see medical records for dependent children and elderly parents.
  • Refill prescriptions – Patients can refill prescriptions through Heritage Family Pharmacy and Heritage Park Pharmacy.
  • Use secure messaging with caregivers – Secure messaging gives patients the convenience to send questions when they think of them or have time to ask. Communications made through MyGreatRiver will be included in the patient’s permanent medical record.
  • Trust that information is secure – MyGreatRiver is a password-protected, HIPAA-certified website. All messages are encrypted to ensure security. Only the patient’s caregivers and staff, and people allowed by the portal account holder can view MyGreatRiver information.

“The MyGreatRiver portal offers a great way for patients to be engaged in the management of their care,” Richardson said. “Being able to securely access up-to-date medical records and communicate with providers online anytime and anywhere will be a significant benefit to both patients and their caregivers.”