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UPDATE: Perham Health adopts Epic records system; Patients can expect delays at first, convenience later

Perham Health facilities in Perham, New York Mills and Ottertail will switch over to a new electronic medical records system called One Chart, available through Epic Systems Corporation.

Patients may experience longer registration times during the initial changeover, as some data must be reentered into the new system. In the long run, however, One Chart has the potential to bring a sense of convenience to providers and patients alike.

To help with longer registration times, the Perham facility will have extra staff on hand through October.

Like the name suggests, One Chart will be a unified record shared between all Sanford facilities. As part of a two-year Sanford-wide upgrade, Perham Health put together a team of four about a year ago to help train and prepare staff. Those four - LaDonna Tellinghuisen, Beth Ulschmid, Jim Rieber and Bonnie Johnson - gave a rundown of the new system and how it will affect patients in an interview last week.

Ulschmid said the record upgrade might be as big a change as the new Perham Health facility was. The current system has the hospital and clinic keeping separate records. This means when a patient goes into the clinic for a follow-up visit after a hospital stay, the clinic does not have immediate access to those hospital records.

This will not be the case with the new One Chart system. One Chart will give "real time information for providers," Tellinghuisen explained.

The new system is expected to increase patient safety, too, which Doctor Andrea Westby said might be its biggest benefit. Westby is new to Perham Health but has previous experience with Epic programs at other health care facilities.

With One Chart, providers won't have to rely on patients to accurately describe previous visits with other providers, Westby said. In her experience, patient recaps sometimes miss important details that may affect a diagnosis.

Electronic transfer of records within One Chart is much easier. Patients who see a specialist in Fargo, for example, can have information from that visit transferred to their regular physician in Perham with just a click of a mouse. And snowbirds can more easily transfer records to a clinic down south, as long as that clinic also uses the Epic system.

Another new convenience for patients will be a My Chart option. After registering online, patients will be able to see their lab results, request prescription renewals, make appointments or view summaries of previous appointments. Patients can also e-mail their doctors and expect a response within 48 hours.

A more uniform billing system is another advantage. Instead of receiving separate bills from the hospital, radiology and clinic, One Chart will allow universal billing.

The new system will still provide all the safety precautions patients expect. Patients have to sign a release to allow a doctor to obtain access to information from another provider in a different facility, and the My Chart option requires ID verification.