When an integrated delivery system has disparate information systems that don't "talk" to each other well, that can spell headaches for patients and physicians alike. Patients face the hassle of having to answer the same questions over and over again each time they visit a different site. And doctors have to overcome hurdles to access every component of a patient's record.

St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif., and its sister clinic, St. Jude Heritage Medical Group, are curing these headaches by using several technologies. These include an enterprise master patient index as well as context management software.

The result? When patients register at the hospital for the first time, their demographic information from previous clinic visits is available to the registrar. And doctors can simultaneously access inpatient and outpatient records, as well as diagnostic images, rather than going on a wild goose chase. As a side benefit, the hospital and clinic have eliminated thousands of duplicate, incomplete patient records, streamlining the search for information.

Eliminate the Hassle

"The first and foremost objective was to make the patient experience seamless" and avoid the hassle of forcing patients to provide the same information repeatedly, says Jeffrey Allport, assistant vice president for information systems at St. Joseph Health System. The system is the Orange, Calif.-based parent company of the St. Jude organizations. It owns delivery systems in several markets.

The hospital uses software from Meditech Inc., Westwood, Mass., as its core clinical system, while the group practice, which has about 250 physicians, uses practice management software from GE Healthcare, Waukesha, Wis., and records software from Allscripts-Misys Healthcare Solutions Inc., Chicago. For diagnostic images, they rely on a picture archiving and communications system from FUJIFILM Medical Systems, Stamford, Conn.

To pinpoint all records in all systems tied to a given patient, the hospital and clinic now use enterprise master patient index software from Initiate Systems Inc., Chicago. "We settled on Initiate because its software uses probabilistic algorithms," Allport says. These formulas calculate the likelihood that a given record is tied to a given patient.

The software sizes up far more than just the core demographic information in a record, such as name, Social Security Number and birth date. It also conducts searches based on common misspellings of first and last names, previous addresses and other factors. The EMPI then displays all possible records matches.

In using the application, the clinic discovered that it had 30,000 duplicate records out of 1.2 million within the outpatient systems, says Kevin Manemann, vice president of operations at St. Jude Medical Center. Of 650,000 Meditech inpatient records, about 20,000 were duplicates. And 375,000 patients had separate records on both the inpatient and outpatient side that are now linked with one ID.

The hospital and clinic also use context management software from Carefx Corp., Scottsdale, Ariz. This software, which uses the Health Level Seven Clinical Context Management Specification standard, enables caregivers to open multiple windows on a computer to display all information for a patient within the various systems.

The organization considered implementing an interface engine to stitch together the systems, but determined that the pairing of context management software and an EMPI was the best way to achieve multiple objectives, Allport says. While the Carefx application could have worked without an EMPI, the EMPI makes it work more efficiently, he says. For more on Hospitals, visit healthdatamanagement.com/portals/hospitals.html 

This article can also be found at HealthDataManagement.com.

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