It’s Epic: Health Care IT and quality improvement

Something very significant happened early Sunday morning at Cincinnati Children’s. Something the patients and their families didn’t even notice. But something that was a major step toward making their care safer and more effective.

The techies among us call it a giant “go live.”

You may think of it as “flipping the switch.” The bottom line: we began using a new technology on all of our inpatient units, pharmacy and elsewhere to keep track of patient orders, conditions, medications, etc. It’s part of our drive toward the use of more health care technology — electronic medical records and more.

Study after study have shown the power of this technology. Something called “computer physician order entry” — which is just like it sounds — can reduce medical errors by as much as 30 percent. We’ve been doing that for years, but there is still a lot of work to do!

We call this “our Epic Adventure” because Epic is the name of the product we purchased to help us. We’ve been customizing Epic for years to fit the needs of our patients and our institution. It’s costing tens of millions of dollars. But if it means safer care, money is not the point.

President Obama is the latest high-ranking official to echo public sentiment about the use (or lack of use) of technology in health care. He quoted Republican leader Newt Gingrich — noting the irony in his agreement with the former House speaker — saying we do a better job of tracking Fed-Ex packages than we do patients through our hospitals. (As an aside: in the same speech last summer when he made that remark, Obama also singled out Cincinnati Children’s as an “island of excellence” in health care.)

A survey in 2008 by the Commonwealth Fund showed three things people wanted from health care: better coordination, access to information and the use of technology.

It’s complicated stuff we’re talking about. And I’ll be talking more about it here later this week. But for now, I wanted to report that the latest “go live” went as expected. It’s new and not perfect, but we’re getting there. It puts us in elite company among hospitals in this country.

And we will continue to push the envelope to provide the safest care possible for our children.

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