Rural Nebraskan hospital an EHR success story

As Congress and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services continue to wrestle over meaningful use reporting requirements for the upcoming year, healthcare professionals are doing their best to keep up with the various mandates that are being thrown at them. As meaningful use crawls ahead, who the winners and losers are is becoming clearer, as well.

According to a case study conducted by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the rural Chadron Community Hospital is outperforming practices twice or three times its size when it comes to meaningful use. Despite having only 25 beds and being completely paper-bound as recently as 2011, Chadron Community Hospital is now running entirely electronic.

A long walk toward EHRs
If large hospital systems and practices with several physicians have difficulties purchasing and implementing electronic health records with an eye toward achieving a stage of meaningful use, rural hospitals may face an impossible battle. A 2012 report from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology indicated that more than 1,100 critical access hospitals had enrolled in regional extension centers to shoulder some of the financial burden of EHRs, but Chadron Community Hospital chose to take a different route.

Before implementing their own in-system EHR, Chadron officials conducted an extensive training course for staff members who expressed discomfort working with electronic systems. Many hospitals struggle to get employees to buy into meaningful use initiatives, especially when they are as disruptive as the move from paper records to electronic ones.

“We went from a complete paper record to completely paperless, and when you do that, the computer becomes one of the training aspects,” Anna Turman, chief information officer and chief operation officer of Chadron Community Hospital, said in the report. “Our goal was to have users reach a high comfort level with technology.”

Turman also explained how Chadron Community Hospital did not blindly choose an EHR, but rather performed an internal audit of its own work processes to identify the vendor with the product that would suit its employees and workplace the best. Officials ran through several mockups of EHRs used in configurations of varying portability before selecting Keane Inc. as their preferred vendor.

Hospitals as small as Chadron do not have the financial wiggle room to dive straight into the first EHR they find, which is why Turman waited a full year before choosing Keane Inc.

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