PLYMOUTH — Saint Joseph’s Health Center in downtown Plymouth began using an electronic medical records system Tuesday.
The clinic, which serves Marshall County residents who are uninsured or meet federal poverty guidelines, is the first office in the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center system to use the program called Next Gen.
“Our other (locations) have electronic records, but they will be converting over to Next Gen,” said Ginger Hook, assistant director of clinical informatics for SJRMC Wednesday. “Saint Joseph Health Center is the first to have this.”
The new system makes patient care more effective and consistent, said Tiffany Richards, a family nurse practitioner at the clinic.
“Cutting out the paper will mean better continuity of care for the patients, more organization, and more tools to send home with the patients,” said Richards. “It’s amazing how fast it is. At the end of the day I close my computer and I am done.”
Richards explained that patients are now able to take a patient care plan home with them that explains everything discussed during their appointment, a treatment plan, and other tips.
“Our patients are excited about the system,” said Richards. “We try to keep them involved and let them know what we are doing, and they have really felt like part of the process with us.”
Soon, said Hook, a “patient portal” will be integrated. Patients will be able to log in from home, view their medical records, ask for an appointment or prescription refill, and communicate with their physician.
“This will happen in the next three months,” said Hook.
Connie Deery, manager of the Saint Joseph Health Center, said that the electronic records system makes it easy for care providers to keep patient info up-to-date and handy.
“This puts the information into a dashboard type approach, and reminds providers of what patients need to know,” said Deery. “Providers can cross reference with other patients or notify all patients in a high-risk group of a new medication. That’s very hard to do with paper records.”
Deery noted that since SJRMC — Plymouth and Mishawaka introduced electronic records in 2008 there has been a decrease in errors because providers are no longer handwriting notes and requiring a secretary to translate them later.