Puget Sound hospital records go digital with MultiCare tech

Ten years ago, MultiCare Health System became the first health system in the south Puget Sound region to implement an electronic health record for patients at its outpatient clinics in Pierce and south King Counties, including the clinic in Covington.

Dr. George J. Brown

Dr. George J. Brown

Ten years ago, MultiCare Health System became the first health system in the south Puget Sound region to implement an electronic health record for patients at its outpatient clinics in Pierce and south King Counties, including the clinic in Covington.

In 2007, MultiCare implemented this futuristic technology at Tacoma General Hospital, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Allenmore Hospital, providing a single, electronic health record for all MultiCare patients whether they are seen in a clinic or a hospital.

MultiCare is now one of few health systems in the nation to have systemwide electronic health records. Called MultiCare Connect, the system allows immediate, secure access to a single, comprehensive health record each time a patient visits a MultiCare hospital or doctor.

“A health record reflects a lifetime of healthcare for a patient, including immunizations, allergies, prescriptions, surgeries, lab reports, x-rays and more,” said Dr. George J. Brown, MultiCare’s chief operating officer. The “wealth” of information helps physicians “assess patients’ needs in order to provide them with the best possible care,” he added.

Paper records require pages of forms and handwritten notes that must be physically transferred among the different sites where a patient receives their care. A paper-based system can slow the delivery of healthcare, and records can be easily misplaced or lost.

In this digital age, there is a quicker, safer and easier way to maintain health records. When patients visit a MultiCare provider or have a middle-of-the-night emergency, their medical history is all there electronically. Staff can immediately view a patient’s healthcare history, saving precious time.

MultiCare Connect also helps providers track the overall health of large patient populations. It analyzes data for a variety of diseases and allows providers to monitor the trends and exchange information. For example, a provider can track all diabetic patients in the system and can monitor important trends for more effective care. The system also provides important reminders for a patient’s care, including mammogram or flu shot alerts.

The system has security features that strictly limit access to a health record to only care providers authorized to view it. In fact, it’s more secure than paper charts. That means a patient’s privacy is assured.

In addition to physician, clinic and hospital access to records, patients throughout south King County and Pierce County can enroll and access their own personal medical information online. Patients may book appointments, request prescription refills and view personal medical information, including lab results, imaging results and immunization records.

This integration of technology helped earn MultiCare national recognition this year. The locally-owned and operated, not-for-profit health system placed eighth in the annual rankings of the Top 100 integrated health networks compiled by Verispan, rising from 56th in 2007.

MultiCare’s improved showing on the 2008 ranking was profiled in Modern Healthcare, a national industry magazine.

MultiCare is made up of four hospitals, numerous primary-care and urgent-care clinics, multi-specialty centers and many other services, including hospice and home health services. Based in Tacoma since 1882, MultiCare today serves patients at 93 locations in the south King County area, Pierce County, and Kitsap and Thurston counties. MultiCare is Pierce County’s largest private-sector employer.

Todd Kelley is the manager of media and public relations for MultiCare Health System.

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