Tribune Print Share Text

Dr. Dimitri Cefalu on record

How Seabrook is a step ahead in electronic medical records

Created date

February 22nd, 2011

As the economic stimulus bill and federal health care reform begin to take effect and we see more and more medical professionals using electronic medical records, many older adults are wondering How do electronic medical records affect me? Dimitri Cefalu, M.D., medical director at Seabrook, an Erickson Living community in Tinton Falls, N.J., answers that question when seeing his patients at the Seabrook medical center. He has two answers: one for people who live at Erickson Living communities across the country, and one for everyone else.

Synergetic health care

Cefalu defines electronic medical records (EMRs) as computer programs that serve as repositories of clinical patient information and demographics. Information can be entered easily, retrieved efficiently, and shared in a meaningful way. In the world outside Seabrook or any Erickson Living community the benefits of EMRs include opportunities to prevent and avoid mistakes due to undecipherable handwriting and misspellings, less wasted paper, and the capacity for drug interaction checks. For example, if an emergency room doctor asks his patient for all medications and allergies, the patient may not remember them. With EMRs, the doctor can access the patient s medical records, including medications and allergies, cutting the risk of errors or drug interactions. In addition to these potential life-saving benefits, people who live at an Erickson Living community like Seabrook benefit even more. There, EMRs provide the ability for true integrative care. Through secure Internet access, the clinician and co-providers of care can access a patient s medical records with patient permission. This allows us the Seabrook medical center and community to act as a true group practice and assume very competent care with a very short learning curve, Cefalu says. For example, he can open a patient s page and review input from Seabrook health care professionals, giving him a comprehensive review of his patient so he can make optimal assessments with interdisciplinary care. It s a daunting task for an outside provider, but it s a tremendous benefit to our patients overall well-being and improved quality of life in that EMRs are a big part of what helps us provide such excellent care.

Daunting task, financial benefits

Comprehensive, integrative use of EMRs is not the only daunting task for outside health care providers. Many New Jersey physicians say they are overwhelmed and intimidated by the cost and process of adopting EMRs, and nearly 80% have yet to incorporate EMRs into their practice as of November 2010. Apprehension arises from concern over redundant records, privacy, the sheer number of rules surrounding their use, and time involved in scanning paper documents. But despite apprehension, doctors must convert to and demonstrate meaningful use of EMRs by 2015 or face financial penalties with regard to their Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. Those who convert before then are entitled to financial bonuses to help them pay for the costly investment. To help move the process along, the New Jersey Health Information Exchange Project and a corresponding grant program aim to facilitate greater adoption of EMRs and other health care information rules as stipulated by HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Physicians can receive training in EMR software selection and use from a team of consultants.

Robust, synchronous system

The Erickson Health Medical Group introduced EMRs to Seabrook four years ago, before the most recent health care reform requirements. Now, all Erickson Living communities use Centricity EMRs, a brand of more than 30 health care software solutions from GE Healthcare. At the onset [our system] was very generic, but through our efforts we have created a very robust, geriatric-specific template, Cefalu says. The Erickson Living model is synchronous to a very modern approach to health care. Because the company adopted EMRs early on and has demonstrated meaningful and effective use of the information technology system, Erickson Living is eligible for financial rewards set forth by the federal economic stimulus package. Through the great vision and hard work of our leadership team, who have taken EMRs and made them even more effective, we are ahead of the curve in terms of providing quality health care, Cefalu says. Thanks to their diligence, we are able to participate in the economic incentives, which helps us continue to provide tremendous, integrative care to our patients. I m so proud to be associated with such a company.