Electronic Health Record Systems Free Hospitals to Cut Costs, Improve Care

Hospitals in even the most challenging environments can benefit.


Diabetes is the No. 1 diagnosis for mortality and complications for the Native Americans who remain the vast majority of the clinic's patient population as well as many of its newer patients. Faced with those needs, the center required an EHR that enabled proactive management of patients. 

A key feature of the system that clinicians value is the array of patient population management tools. One example is Sage Intergy's health management tab, which the center's staff uses extensively when patients call or present for appointments.

Personnel can easily query and review the health tab for patients at each of their appointments. The result, says Hope Williams, one of the center's certified diabetic educators, is a better educated and more empowered patient.

"We believe that the patient is the lead in the management of their diabetes. We are able to update this tool and then print it for them so they can understand what needs to be done to take best care of their diabetes," she says.

From a patient safety perspective, the Sage Intergy EHR has proven invaluable. In the past, patients who came to the clinic for "urgent" visits might call in a few days later for a medication renewal--and receive it without anyone conducting a thorough medical review. Frequently, this occurred because the record showed the patient requesting the renewal had been recently seen. However, the clinician approving the renewal could not see what type of visit it was. Most often, it was assumed that it was a routine follow-up visit for an existing condition. The potential for problems arose if the patient's visit had actually been for an acute problem, not a routine follow-up. As a result, no one was proactively managing the patient's chronic illness.

Nurse practitioner Dana Irmick sees a world of difference now with the EHR's ability to track patients over time. Instead of thumbing through the patient's file to compare heights and weights, for example, Irmick can easily call the information up electronically to review and share with parents.

Irmick also values the EHR as an aid in helping her to raise patients' awareness of their own health progress, or lack of it.

"It gives patients more ownership," Irmick says. 

Williams also credits the EHR for an overall improvement in the continuity of care that the center provides, something that was always a challenge with its former system of tracking the care of patients with diabetes through flow charts maintained on paper.

Sage Intergy allows the center's providers and nurses to fully work as a team instead of spending time to track down a paper flow chart.

Today, Peter Christensen Health Center is truly a medical home for the 25,000 patients it serves each year. It presents a shining example of the integrated and responsive approach to health care, and it does so while meeting the financial and clinical challenges of serving a rural and disadvantaged patient population.