Marshfield Clinic Pioneers Leading-Edge Electronic Patient Care System

MARSHFIELD, Wis., Aug. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Before most health care providers had seen an electronic medical record, providers at Marshfield Clinic could not imagine practicing medicine without one. Now Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, Wis., has begun deployment of portable “tablet computers” that will lead to a chartless medical environment by 2006 -- a breakthrough for a clinic system with nearly 2 million patient visits each year.

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More than 100 physicians and medical assistants have been using the tablets since October 2003 as a trial. In July, another 600 physicians and other providers began receiving tablets, with about 30 tablets distributed each week after that with a total of 2,000 to be in use by 2006.

Costly chart pulling will then be a thing of the past and patient record security will be enhanced, according to Carl Christensen, Chief Information Officer. Wireless tablet computers allow Marshfield Clinic physicians to access electronic medical records including radiology reports and images, dictate, enter orders and write prescriptions electronically.

Marshfield Clinic’s newest facility, now under construction in Weston, Wis., will not even house a chart room.

Marshfield Clinic has been a pioneer in developing and using fully integrated computer technology for patient care for almost 20 years. With software developed entirely by Marshfield Clinic staff and physicians, a detailed electronic medical record was in widespread use by the early 1990s. In 1994, Marshfield Clinic implemented provider electronic signature, making the electronic medical record the official medical record.

Coded information is moved to a data warehouse where Marshfield Clinic researchers conduct landmark population-based studies including the genetics research known as the Personalized Medicine Research Project.

“Typically, you hear about hospitals making strides in the development and deployment of new Information Systems because hospitals have fewer patient records to handle,” said Tom Berg, director of Clinical Information Services. “Marshfield Clinic is forging new territory by doing this with a patient base of nearly two million and 6,000 patient visits per day across 40 facilities.”

Tablet computers will allow providers to access and share information instantly, use ink-over forms, access the Internet and write electronic prescriptions. Physicians can call up their patients’ medical records in a matter of seconds -- including history, diagnoses, allergies, lab results and X-rays -- enabling them to be alerted to drug allergies or look up interactions with other medications, improving safety and quality in the health care Marshfield Clinic provides.

“The mobility that tablet computers allow gives our physicians the ability to move between home wireless systems, WANs, LANs, and makes it easy to negotiate access to other medical facilities,” said Christensen. “Bringing patient records and other systems to the bedside and into the exam room will allow us to provide better care, reduce errors and save millions of dollars each year. The cost of pulling paper charts alone could result in a $7 million savings annually.”

Hundreds of Marshfield Clinic physicians and other providers are lining up to receive tablet computers, according to Berg. Those already using them are enthusiastic about the change. Edna DeVries, M.D., a Marshfield Clinic pediatrician, sees it saving time and improving quality of care.

“Pediatrics requires acute-care visits and a lot of running. We have rich electronic medical records and now I pull up patient information wherever I am,” DeVries said. “The whole system brings a real improvement to patient care. That’s what counts.”

The Marshfield Clinic system consists of 41 patient care and research and education facilities in northern, central, eastern and western Wisconsin, making it one of the largest comprehensive medical systems in the United States. The main campus, located in Marshfield, Wis. is home to a centralized Information Systems Department of more than 240 people and Marshfield develops nearly all of its own software.

Available Topic Expert(s): For information on the listed expert(s), click appropriate link. CARL A. CHRISTENSEN THOMAS A. BERG

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