Spectrum shares info via networks

May 2, 2009
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Dozens of physicians’ practices, even some without electronic medical records, are trading the fax machine for the computer in getting lab results from Spectrum Health.

The health system’s eSHare program has helped streamline operations at Partners in Family Health, a three-doctor primary care practice in Hudsonville, said office manager Mary Lane.

“I think it’s a time-saver and more accurate,” Lane said. It’s one of 67 practices not owned by Spectrum Health that are using the application. Another 38 are in various stages of implementation.

Every morning, Lane goes to the computer and downloads reports from Spectrum Health. She can see lab results, for example, and is also alerted when a patient has been to the Urgent Care Center or a Spectrum Health emergency room.

“Faxes don’t always work the best,” she added. “The fax machine piles up so quickly.”

Patrick O’Hare, chief information officer at Spectrum Health, said the eSHare system was provided by Novo Innovations, which became part of Medicity early this year and is headquartered in Salt Lake City. The merged company serves the fledgling health information exchange market.

“Back before the existence of fax machines, we had couriers and we relied on the U.S. mail. In the last 10, 15 years, we’ve obviously relied heavily on fax machines and we fax out thousands of pages per day,” O’Hare said.

“We started asking the question: Is there a better way to distribute this information?”

As electronic medical records slowly enter the health system, some doctors’ offices have already invested in systems, while others, such as Partners in Family Health, have not yet taken that step. The eSHare system serves both, O’Hare said.

“We’re seeing more activity from the electronic medical records perspective, so we wanted the ability to be able to help with their work flow by being able to connect with them electronically,” he said. Yet practices without EMRs find eSHare useful, as well, he added.

Practices that already have their own EMR system can have the lab results and other clinical information feed directly into their records. But the system gives practices such as Partners in Family Health the ability to easily find and print out information for their paper records.

Lab and radiology orders also can be submitted via computer, rather than requiring that the patient obtain and ferry papers to various testing locations.

Lane said it’s been a good move along the EMR pathway, in addition to e-prescribing and the Quest laboratories system, she said. The doctors are close to making a final decision on implementing EMRs, she added.

O’Hare could not identify the amount of money Spectrum has spent on eSHare.

“This is part of our overall strategy of trying to partner with providers to allow them to provide more effective care to the patients we jointly service. It’s the cost of doing business,” O’Hare said.

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