Kaiser Permanente going paperless with medical records

Kaiser Permanente, the nation's largest health care group, plans to deploy a paperless automated medical record (AMR) system for all of its 8.4 million members and 11,000 physicians.

The Oakland, Calif.-based company said it will use an integrated next-generation AMR system developed by Epic Systems Corp. in Madison, Wis., that will let health care professionals and patients themselves access medical records. David O'Grady, a spokesman for Kaiser Permanente, said it will take three years to roll out the new system to the group's 30 medical centers and 423 medical offices nationwide.

Epic will provide Kaiser Permanente with an integrated data depository that integrates all clinical data, including patient charts, order entry systems, clinical notes, nursing documentation and pharmacy information systems. Kaiser Permanente said the new system will eliminate errors and inefficiencies that result from paper-based systems and provide medical staff with up-to-the-minute records, including test results.

Ralph Reyes, senior vice president of Draper, Utah-based Klas Enterprise, a company that measures the performance of health care IT systems, said it's unusual for a health care organization to use one vendor for such a wide variety of applications. But, Reyes said, the decision could reflect Epic Systems' reputation in the health care IT field. Klas measures the performance of health care IT systems based on reports from 4,000 hospitals, and Epic Systems has topped its list of more than 300 health care IT systems for the past three years, Reyes said.

George Halvorson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, said in a statement that "creating secure 24/7 access to up-to-date patient records will mean improved patient care -- whether patients visit their personal physician or any provider in our medical groups across the country."

Dr. Carolyn Clancy, acting director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement that the Kaiser AMR project is an "example of how the power of information technology can be harnessed to make the kind of achievable improvements in health care quality that the American people want and deserve."

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