Pacific Northwest Will Serve as Pilot Site for Military Electronic Medical Records

Doctor explaining diagnosis to her female patient
For some time now, the Department of Defense has been making efforts toward keeping better electronic medical records for military members and families. And it’s now been announced that the Pacific Northwest region will be the site of a pilot installment, the News Tribune reported Jan. 14.

The region was selected because of its history of the military medical system there working well with private healthcare providers. MultiCare Health Systems of Tacoma has also been asked to help a vendor team win a $11 billion federal contract that would update EMRs for the DoD.

All military healthcare in the Puget Sound area will be consolidated under Madigan Army Medical Center, with the center influencing treatment at both Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Naval Base Kitsap.

MultiCare already shares more than 8,000 records with Madigan Army Medical Center each year, MultiCare Vice President Florence Chang pointed out at a briefing last Wednesday.

The new system should benefit both doctors and patients, officials say. The challenges of taking a medical history at each visit will be lifted from physicians, and service members will no longer need to copy and fax medical documents each time they’re re-stationed or referred to a new doctor.

Another advantage of an electronic record system is that it should make it easier for military families to seek out civilian specialists. Madigan, for example, is set up for adults and not well equipped to take care of children. So the new system should enable military parents to take their families elsewhere for pediatric care when necessary.

The Challenges of EMRs
Electronic medical records are becoming more and more commonplace for healthcare providers across the country — no doubt in part because they increase overall efficiency by about 6% annually. But this high-tech trend has its own challenges, among them the burden of actually inputting all this helpful data in the first place.

But the healthcare industry is coming up with solutions, particularly by hiring medical scribes to input data into EMRs just as they take physical notes for doctors with paper charts. According to predictions from the American College of Medical Scribe Specialists, the profession will grow from 20,000 professionals today to 100,000 by 2020, Fortune magazine reported Jan. 9.

Even these trends have the potential to, again, benefit doctors and patients alike.

In a team approach, Dr. Kevin D. Hopkins wrote for Family Practice Management recently, “Each individual performs at the highest level of his or her qualifications. … If the physician is spending time entering data in an EHR [electronic health record] or filling out forms that do not require his or her expertise, that is time not spent seeing patients and generating income for the practice.”

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