Vancouver Clinic’s electronic records help doctors share information

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



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Health begins here.

Health care in Clark County is getting a bit more coordinated.

The Vancouver Clinic has implemented a new computer system that gives not only its own physicians but those at area hospitals, and local pharmacists, instant access to patients’ medical records.

The new electronic medical record system means hospital emergency department physicians can immediately see a patient’s medical history. It means pharmacists can send an electronic message to a patient’s primary care physician to get the OK to refill a medication. And it means specialists will be able to read other physicians’ notes about shared patients.

The Vancouver Clinic now uses the same program as Kaiser Permanente, Oregon Health & Science University and Legacy Health. Providence Health & Services, The Portland Clinic and PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center are all in the process of shifting to the system as well, said Tom VanSweringen, chief executive officer.

“I think we have a real opportunity in Vancouver-Portland to have an almost integrated, seamless care system,” he said.

Any group using the system can access a shared patient’s medical records. Across the country, about 24 percent of medical providers use the system, VanSweringen said. The clinic is also connected electronically with every pharmacy in Clark County.

While medical records are now more accessible, they aren’t less secure. The system uses the same level of security as banking websites, said Tom O’Neal Jr., chief information officer for the clinic.

In addition to better coordinating care outside of The Vancouver Clinic, the new system also improves connections within the clinic walls.

Some patients have multiple physicians at the clinic. The electronic medical records mean all of a patient’s physicians can see details of each visit. The system also gives the physicians quicker access to lab results and X-rays, said Dr. Alfred Seekamp, medical director for The Vancouver Clinic.

Sharing of information will mean better outcomes for patients, he said.

“It’s real 21st century health care,” Seekamp said.

The system offers other benefits to patients as well.

Physicians can print out and provide patients with a visit summary, post-visit instructions and additional information on medical issues. At home, patients can access their own medical records and lab results online through the My Chart function. The system can also notify patients if they’re due for routine procedures such as a colonoscopy, Seekamp said.

The clinic also recently activated a feature that automatically alerts a physician if one of their patients is admitted to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, O’Neal said. In the past, the physician wouldn’t be notified until the patient was discharged and the record was faxed to the clinic, he said.

The clinic plans to continue rolling out new system features, all in an effort to provide more-coordinated and improved patient care, O’Neal said.

“I think that’s a huge advantage to our patients and our providers,” VanSweringen said. “Everybody’s trying to do the right thing for the patient, but it’s important to see the patient as the center of the care.”

Marissa Harshman:;;; 360-735-4546.