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Bridging the gap between IT and clinical teams

Located halfway between Atlanta and Birmingham, Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Center (RMC) is a vital presence in its community. When it was time to upgrade its electronic health record (EHR) system, RMC realized there was a critical gap between the needs of the clinical, executive and administrative staff, and how the IT infrastructure and team could best meet those needs.

Opening the lines of communication between IT and clinical teams

Physicians felt the EHR often made their jobs harder instead of easier, while IT teams were frustrated systems weren’t optimized throughout the hospital. RMC needed more than an upgrade, it needed a deep-dive into its current user interface to uncover underlying issues so their systems could best serve physicians, staff and—most importantly—patients.

“Our previous CMIO moved to another facility out of state, and we were missing that all-important link between physicians and IT,” said Chief Information Officer Pete Furlow. “Recruiting the right physician in Northeast Alabama for that highly specialized role can be difficult, so we asked EIS [now Allscripts] to help.”

Enter the Allscripts team led by Clinical Principal Stanley Sinkford, M.D., a physician executive and seasoned expert in healthcare information systems—who wasn’t surprised by the disconnect between IT and clinical teams because it is not unique to RMC.

“Our first order of business was to go in and listen—to the IT team, to the physicians, to the executives and the rest of the staff—to better understand their frustrations and obstacles,” Dr. Sinkford said.

Through these conversations, Dr. Sinkford discovered that all departments were not using the current system to its fullest capacity. It caused a disjointed workflow, frustrated staff and lost reimbursement income.

Dr. Sinkford and his team listened to frustrations and clarified specific needs. They also met with everyone from the CEO to clinicians to billing coders. Engaging multiple teams and disciplines enabled a more holistic evaluation of the issues, as well as a more complete response.

“Opening the lines of communication with the staff unearthed opportunities that will save RMC millions of dollars over time,” Dr. Sinkford said.

Customized templates improve emergency department (ED) workflows

For example, the Allscripts team helped create customized documentation templates, dedicated to RMC clinician requests, to facilitate emergency care. The templates enable easy, accurate and timely input. It helped create more efficient workflows hospital-wide and facilitates better patient care.

Most emergency rooms are similar; they have high acuity, high volume and rapid turnover. “That being said, the difference is in the workflow and understanding an organization’s workflow is critical in optimization resulting in better patient outcomes,” Dr. Sinkford said. Reducing template length and streamlining documentation helped achieve great results.

Template changes have also helped reduce the average length of stay for discharge patients, which has dropped 25%, from 255 minutes to 192 minutes. Time they wait for admission from the emergency room shows a 16% decrease, from 390 to 327 minutes.

To learn more about how RMC’s new workflows improved provider satisfaction and reduced wait times, read a recent case study.

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