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Sentara Obici ‘goes live’

Sentara Obici computer room

Sentara Obici employees filled rooms with computers and spent the days leading up to the eCare changeover transferring patient files to computers.

On the edge of a new age for health care, Sentara Health Care Systems is coming in ahead of the curve.

On Sept. 25, Sentara Obici Hospital was the final of the seven Hampton Roads hospitals to receive Sentara eCare.

“This is a big step ahead for Obici,” said Virginia Savage, director of nursing informatics. “We want to make patient care process more cohesive and comprehensive. This system will strengthen our foundation to provide excellent patient care.”

Sentara eCare is an electronic medical record system allowing caregivers to access records in a seamless, streamlined manner. It allows for secure sharing of patient information across physical boundaries, including hospitals, physician offices, diagnostic centers and patients’ homes.

A major benefit of the new format is that it allows caregivers to have instant access to a patient’s entire medical file, including past test results.

“For any patient in any Sentara hospital, you can see all their information,” Savage said. “It helps to ensure they received faster care, and it cuts back on unnecessary or duplicated testing.”

With the end of all paper medical records in the hospitals, it doesn’t matter where the patient is. If they were treated at any Sentara facility, their records travel to any other primary care physician — in the Sentara network or not, Savage explained.

An added benefit is that doctors will be able to review files electronically instead of waiting for them to be sent over from another office.

Other potential benefits include shorter hospital stays, lower costs and fewer medical errors, Savage said.

Sentara medical group physicians can also use Sentara eCare, and more than 30,000 residents in the region utilize Sentara MyChart, which enables patients to communicate with physicians, schedule appointments, request refills and view test results.

Sentara made the decision to invest $230 million into the new records system in 2005, and administrators have been at work transferring patient files to an electronic format at Obici since January. The first hospital went live with the upgrade in 2008.

“This conversion marks a major milestone for our hospital,” said Kurt Hofelich, vice president and administrator of Sentara Obici Hospital. “We’ve incorporated lessons learned from the six Sentara hospitals [that] have already implemented Sentara eCare and our skilled clinicians and medical staff at Sentara Obici Hospital have contributed to enhancement that our other six hospitals will benefit from, as well. It’s been a very effective collaboration among a host of experience staff members to help support a successful implementation.”

In recognition of its efforts to improve patient care through the use of technology, Sentara was honored with the 2010 HIMSS Davies Award. The award follows others including HIMSS Analytics Stage 7 Award, to note its level of electronic medical record adoption and several consecutive years being listed Most Wired by “Hospitals and Health Networks” magazine.