“It’s going to dramatically enhance the ability of doctors to take care of their patients,’’ said William W. O’Neill, M.D., executive dean for clinical affairs at the Miller School and chief medical officer for the University of Miami Health System and University of Miami Hospital. “With electronic records, all the information about a patient from different sources will be in one spot, enabling physicians to come up with a comprehensive understanding of the patient and then create a good game plan. It’s a huge improvement.’’
Patients who visited 41 clinical offices across dozens of specialties today were introduced to UChart by the ubiquitous “Pardon Our Electronic Dust” signs and the army of orange-vested UChart Super Users helping smooth out the glitches expected with any electronic system that integrates multiple functions. As they left doctors’ offices, patients were given educational material and an activation code to create their MyUHealthChart at MyUHealthChart.com, the online patient portal that will allow them to access portions of their medical records anytime, from anywhere.
Using the portal, patients also will be able to e-mail their UHealth physicians and clinical support staff, view select lab results, review their medications and immunizations, and request prescription renewals. Their doctors likewise will be able to send electronic prescriptions to almost any pharmacy.
The roughly 1,400 physicians and clinical staff who began using UChart today joined 80 physicians and 200 clinical support staff at six clinical offices who inaugurated the electronic record-keeping system on May 18 in what was designed as a “robust test” of the system. In the interim eight weeks, the UChart Project team has modified the training program, closed gaps and made necessary adjustments to resolve issues before today’s launch.
Still, some glitches were inevitable. For example, in the morning, some new users in some clinics were unable to log on to the system. But at the UChart Command Center in the Hope Lodge, UChart support staffers were manning a phone triage system and immediately routing issues to analysts who quickly resolved them. They paused briefly to hear Dennis Golbourne, the UChart zone leader in radiation oncology, report on the fix for one issue that arose during the initial rollout, earning him a round of applause.
“Imagine a patient can stay home and communicate with their physician,’’ Golbourne said. “You can’t beat it. For this school, it is one of the biggest things we’ve done this millennium.’’
Indeed, David Seo, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the Cardiovascular Division, and Physician Champion of the UChart system, said electronic recordkeeping will be a real “game changer,” one that will make a significant difference in the lives, and care, of patients by enabling their doctors to easily access all available information about them. As he and Dr. O’Neill noted, until today, UHealth physicians faced the almost impossible task of trying to gather all the reports, all the lab results, all the tests and all the medications that multiple specialists from multiple offices ordered or prescribed for their patient.
Now that challenge will be a thing of the past.
“Now that you have one source of data, one-stop shopping, that means no matter where you are as a physician you can always get information on a patient,’’ Seo said. “If I’m on call at home, if I’m here on a weekend, if I’m in the clinic or on the wards, now I have one place I can log in to and see as much data as is available on one patient.’’
Seo, who spent the day rotating among the new UChart clinics and addressing concerns and issues as they arose, was heartened by the enthusiasm he encountered. “I think everybody is adapting fairly well,’’ he said. “We have growing pains, but I think everybody understands this eventually makes our lives better. It will help us help our patients and, at the end of the day, helping our patients is what it is all about.’’
Next month, 13 satellite clinics and the emergency department at UMH will begin implementing the system. The pharmacies at the specialty hospitals will join them in December, when patients will be able to schedule appointments and pay their bills electronically through UChart. As planned, ophthalmology offices will be implemented on another date.