KCUR News
9:23 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

More Missouri Hospitals Going Electronic

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – More and more hospitals in Missouri are going electronic. That's based on a new report from the Missouri Hospital Association.

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Nine out of ten Missouri hospitals now have some sort of electronic health record system in place.

That's a good thing, according to Dave Dillon, with the Missouri Hospital Association. Dillon says electronic records can improve patient care by keeping track of important medical information and better coordinating tests and treatments.

An electronic system has also proved critical in Joplin's recovery.

"When that tornado struck St. John's Medical Center down there, while there were paper records spread all over the city, they had the ability to function because they had a fully integrated [electronic health] system already up and running," Dillon says.

Dillon says the scale and capability of electronic systems in Missouri hospitals varies. At a minimum, such hospitals are able to electronically collect certain health information about patients. He says really effective electronic systems, though, are able to integrate their records with those of neighboring doctors' offices and pharmacies.

"Those are probably the biggest challenges," says Dillon. "Because of the history of everyone having their own records, maybe not using common platforms, and just the fragmented system we've operated under historically."

Dillon says implementing such electronic systems can also be expensive, especially for smaller hospitals. But he says new federal and state incentive programs, clearer HHS guidelines for how systems should be designed, and reduced Medicare reimbursements to places which aren't electronic in the future, are bringing more hospitals on board.

And, Dillon says the situation is already improving: of the 145 hospitals surveyed in the new report, one fifth had highly developed systems, compared to about one sixth last year.

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