Fifty years ago, a “mouse” was a critter that scurried under the porch, a “hard drive” was car trip from Raleigh to Nags Head mid-August, and “electronic messaging” was a hand delivered telegram. Technology has revolutionized our lives and healthcare has joined the cutting edge with diagnostic equipment that can trace the flow of fluids inside our bodies without so much as a pinprick.

This Spring, The Outer Banks Hospital added another dimension to its high-tech delivery system: the electronic medical record. On April 19th, the hospital flipped the switch on the software, called HealthSpan, which makes information available to physicians and other clinical staff when and where they need it.

For the past 100 years, charts full of notes, lab results and EKG strips were the staple of the medical profession. The paper won’t disappear overnight. However, accompanying the chart will be a computer on a rolling cart which can be wheeled in and out of patient rooms. All the notations which were handwritten are now logged onto computer screens. The system includes prompts and reminders about potential drug interactions and clinical guidelines relevant to the patient.

“Technology is not an end in itself,” said hospital president Van Smith. “But it certainly can enhance the delivery of good health care.” In time all of the hospitals belonging to University Health Systems in Eastern North Carolina will be connected to HealthSpan. Patients within the system will no longer need to request copies of their records when they visit multiple providers within the system. With just the touch of a fingertip, the information will be available.

In addition to providing a single source for all the information needed to care for a patient, other benefits of the electronic medical record include:

  • alerts and reminders about allergies, medication interaction and other pertinent medical conditions
  • coordination of care among multiple providers
  • better legibility and safer more effective care.