By: Dr. Tom Sequist
This is part of an ongoing series by our Quality, Safety & Value team highlighting Partners HealthCare’s efforts to develop and implement best practices across our network of hospitals to improve the quality of care patients receive while reducing costs.
What do electronic health records have to do with the quality of health care?
In this series, I’ve shared my opinion on a range of quality and safety advances developed by my colleagues across Partners. Today, I want to share my experiences with one that is less obvious: Partners’ biggest investment in quality, the $1.2 billion electronic health record we call Partners eCare.
This electronic health record (EHR) will be accessible across all of Partners, from billing to the point of care. It allows a single electronic medical record for each of our 1.5 million patients. A single medical record will enable so much and, if done right, will accelerate new treatments and advance ever-higher quality health care.
With one record, each patient’s pertinent health care facts will be readily accessible in any of our clinics, on every floor of our hospitals, at our rehabilitation hospitals and even in patients’ homes, by our home health nurses and therapists. As a primary care doctor practicing at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, I am now able to monitor what is going on with my patients across all of these settings. I can see what medications are being changed, real-time vital signs, nursing notes, specialist consultant recommendations and many other important pieces of information. Now I can provide real-time input based on my longer-term knowledge and relationship with the patient. This is a really big deal that helps break down the silos in our health care system and focus on delivering safer, effective, patient-centered care.
Partners cares for millions of patients each year in our hospitals, physician offices and other care settings. In the past, a patient traveling from their primary care doctor to their surgeon, their rehabilitation stay and then to home would have their care tracked by three or four independent EHR systems – or even in paper records. We have invested in a new electronic health record to replace the many versions of older electronic records and paper files scattered around our system, and enabled so much more than the examples I’ve shared above.
In addition to enhancing existing workflows and better coordinating patient care, the EHR will allow us to measure quality of care in wholly new ways. We will use predictive analytics to anticipate the likelihood of important health outcomes, and take action to improve those outcomes. As we continue to roll out our new EHR across the system, we have many plans to improve the quality and safety of patient care. Our patients will be able to schedule their own appointments, view their own test results and clinical notes written by their doctors, and communicate with their clinical team via email, minimizing unnecessary office visits or worry.
We know from decades of research that using an advanced EHR improves the quality and safety of care across many fronts. Our implementation of the EHR at Partners demonstrates our commitment to providing truly outstanding care.