Doctors' orders go paperless at Penrose-St. Francis

April 5, 2013

Physicians at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services can now enter patient orders directly into a computer, speeding up treatments and reducing possible treatment and prescription errors.

Penrose-St. Francis went paperless with doctors’ orders this week when it established its computerized provider order entry system throughout Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center. The electronic system allows physicians to enter patient prescriptions, symptoms, latest treatments and notes to nurses directly into a patient’s electronic record. This eliminates about 30 minutes of wait time formerly spent by administrative assistants who once entered a doctor’s written notes, said Dr. Peter Walsh, vice president of nedical affairs at St. Francis Medical Center.

“Now, if it is a pharmacy order,” he said, “it goes right to the pharmacy.”

The system also allows doctors to change patient medication or treatment orders outside the hospital when a computer is available, Walsh said. And it reduces the potential for errors by assistants who once had to interpret unclear handwritten orders, he said.

Walsh said the computerized system will not cause a reduction in hospital staff.

The transition to electronic patient records is part of a federal government mandate. Memorial Hospital has spent around $40 million to implement its electronic physician entry system, which is expected to go hospitalwide in November, said Brian Newsome, director of marketing, communications and public and media relations for Memorial, now part of University of Colorado Health. The eventual transition will allow patients to go online and schedule appointments, see certain test results and ask or discuss non-urgent medical questions, Newsome said.

Chris Valentine, director of marketing and communications for Penrose-St. Francis, said he did not know how much it spent to implement its system. He said the system was first installed in the emergency departments of Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center about a year ago, than slowly implemented throughout the two hospitals as additional computers were added, doctors trained and software problems fixed.

“It is not just a computer upgrade,” Valentine said. “It changed the way we operate.”

Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

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