What happens when things don’t work as they should?

In my own mind I’m still in the infancy of my career in health care and I have a lot to learn and a lot of experience yet to gain.  When I stop for a minute to reflect I realize that I’ve been in health care for almost 17 years.  I’m not a veteran but 17 years is a while.  I freely admit that I have a lot to learn and that experience is a great teacher.

Over my 17 year career I’ve seen a drastic change in the medical record.  The change has affected how patient care is documented, how charges are applied to a patient’s account and our reliance upon computers.  Today, all patient care is documented electronically, many of the charges drop automatically as a result of a mouse click and more time is spent interacting with a key board than an ink pen.

So what happens when computers go down and the electronic medical record is not available?  Last week we found out at GVMH. 

Meditech is our electronic system and in the course of replacing equipment our system crashed.  A piece of hardware that was installed had a malfunction and that caused problems with our system  which resulted in a full system shutdown for over two days and both documentation and charges were lost in the process. 

I remember when the system was installed a few years ago and how much people hated going from paper to computer.  I remember last week when people hated going from computer to paper.  It’s funny how we become reliant upon what we’re used to and what we know.  If I were to be completely honest I would say that documentation today takes longer than it did 10 years ago.  The electronic record has increased the time staff spend documenting but it has also made the documentation more thorough and accurate.  The electronic medical record has made recalling information easier and more timely and it has resulted in more accurate billing as well.

It’s been over a week since the system went down and we’re still fixing problems and replicating documentation and charges so the system failure has been costly and time-consuming and it has reminded us that one of our greatest assets is also one of our greatest liabilities.  

We have policies and procedures in place to deal with our electronic system being down and last week’s system failure was a true disaster and I mean that in every sense of the word.  We instituted our incident command protocol just as we would for any disaster.  Last week’s system failure also reminded us that patient care isn’t performed by a computer, it’s performed by people and our people did a great job providing care during the disaster.

Our system will go down again at some point and last week’s failure will help us be even better prepared the next time.

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Executive Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. At GVMH we care for our families, friends and neighbors. We're committed to providing the safest, friendliest and most compassionate care to all we serve.
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