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March 6, 2003


Emory Finishes First Phase of Data Entry Integration in Project to Implement Electronic Medical Record

ATLANTA -- Emory Healthcare has reached the first important milestone in a multi-year, multi-million-dollar project to achieve a system-wide, paper-free electronic medical record. The adoption of electronic medical records is a key goal for many of the country's largest hospitals and health systems in the quest to increase quality of care, lower the incidence of medical errors, improve patient and provider satisfaction, and adopt standardized decision support and treatment pathways based on the medical literature.

Emory Healthcare began developing the infrastructure for the electronic medical record in 1992. For the past several years, both inpatient and outpatient records have been entered, stored and retrieved electronically from the same underlying, secure database, said Dedra Cantrell, RN, chief information officer for Emory Healthcare. Now, all new patients are being assigned a unique identifier that will eliminate the need to re-enter the same information repetitively in different care settings. She said Emory believes it is the first large hospital system in the Atlanta area to achieve this degree of data integration for both inpatients and outpatients.

This system embraces patient data for Emory University Hospital, Emory Crawford Long Hospital, The Emory Clinic, the Wesley Woods Center and will include the Emory Children's Center, amounting to about 40,400 inpatient admissions and 1.1 million outpatient visits a year.

The achievement of this important milestone means that Emory Healthcare is on target to implement system-wide computer-based physician order entry by December 2004, said William A. Bornstein, MD, PhD, chief quality/medical officer for Emory Hospitals and medical director of information services for Emory Healthcare. Computer-based physician order entry (CPOE) has been advocated by healthcare quality improvement organizations such as The Leapfrog Group ( which see it as a key step in minimizing errors. Not only does CPOE eliminate imprecise and incomplete communication between doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, but it also provides real-time clinical decision support, which helps to reduce adverse drug events and other errors. Dr. Bornstein is an advisor to The Leapfrog Group.

"The Emory Electronic Medical Record system, which will include CPOE, and full outpatient and inpatient care systems, will allow us to capture real clinical data in the process of care. We will be able to feed this clinical data into a common database that will allow us to do very robust analysis and reporting from a research and patient outcomes perspective," said Dr. Bornstein. "In this way, continual performance improvement and quality assurance will be built into the cycle of care."

He noted that another important feature of this system will be the seamless capture and documentation of insurance and other administrative information, which increasingly occupies a great deal of doctors' and nurses' time. "Rather than technology interfering with the high-touch aspects of health care, we think technology will actually enhance it, by off-loading multiple documentation requirements, managed care formularies, all those things that can interfere with the personal aspects of a patient encounter," he said.

Emory has been working as a development partner with the Cerner Corporation since 1992 to implement an electronic patient record system called PowerChart, and the EMR initiative builds on that long experience base, Bornstein said.

The end of all paper patient records at Emory in both the inpatient and outpatient setting will be an important milestone of what is projected as a $27 million program, launched in July 2002 and ending sometime in 2012.

"This is not about going electronic for the sake of going electronic, this is not about automating the paper medical record," said Ms. Cantrell. "Although a byproduct will be elimination of the paper medical record, this initiative is really all about transforming care at Emory."

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