Mercy Family Clinics in Mason City and the surrounding area are switching from paper patient charts to electronic charts. To accommodate electronic charting, the clinics are changing some of their processes that will benefit both the patients and the providers.
The electronic medical records have been implemented at Women’s Health Center and the Mercy Family Clinics at Regency, Northwood and Sheffield. On December 3, Mercy Family Clinic – Forest Park in Mason City will switch from their current electronic record to the same system that is being implemented in the other clinics. Eventually, all of the Mercy Family Clinics and Specialty Clinics will adopt the new electronic record.
Joseph Behr, M.D. is a family practice doctor at the Forest Park clinic and is also Mercy’s Medical Director of Ambulatory Informatics. According to Behr, electronic records provide benefits to both the patient and the providers.
“The problems with a paper chart is that they can only be in one place at a time and there is a delay in getting new information into the chart, “ said Behr. “In the days following someone’s clinic visit, the patients’ charts travel from the clinician’s desk to the nurses’ desks to the filing clerks desk. The clinician dictates details about the office visit and that are then transcribed before being added to the chart.”
According to Behr, the electronic charts can be accessed from any computer in Mercy’s clinics or hospitals, with proper password access. Details from the appointments will be entered into the electronic chart during the office visit, making them available in the chart immediately. With the new clinic process, most follow-up appointments will be scheduled with the patient while still in the exam room, providing increased privacy for the patient. Additionally, patients will be given a printed care plan at the end of the visit, detailing any future appointments, changes in prescriptions or other important information from the office visit.
“This is a big undertaking for clinicians and clinic staff,” said Behr. “We are learning a whole new process for seeing patients in our clinics. In the first few weeks after the electronic record is implemented in each clinic, we expect it to take us longer with each patient so we are building that extra time into our schedule. It still means that you might spend more time in the exam room for your appointment, but hopefully it will not mean a long wait in the waiting room prior to the appointment.”
Eventually, Behr expects each clinic to resume its normal schedule.