MedNet takes patient records securely on the road
Regional backbone to link hundreds of doctors, hospitals in single EMR-sharing system for better patient care
As the largest integrated health-care provider in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, Sentara Healthcare already had a network solution from Cox Communications that provided voice and data to its more than 120 hospitals, clinics and member physician locations when officials there decided to get even more ambitious.
The result was MedNet, a private IP-based network designed to be securely accessed by not only Sentara’s member physicians and facilities but also other health-care providers in the area, to establish a single Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system for patients. Working with Cox, Sentara is establishing itself as an application service provider, selling individual physicians or clinics monthly subscriptions that enable them to manage patient records and the workflow of their offices via MedNet, providing better quality treatment in the process.
The subscriptions are sold at cost – Sentara is a not-for-profit organization – and the idea is to improve the quality and efficiency of health care by enabling every doctor who sees and treats a patient to not only know that patient’s full medical history but interact with the record to keep it up-to-date.
“Today, doctors that are not affiliated with Sentara can use an ISP to access a product that we call CareVision, and that portal gives them a limited view of results,” said Betsy Meadows, director of enterprise network services for Sentara Healthcare.
Doctors can log onto an MD Office portal that Sentara provides and get limited access to test results, discharge summaries, transfer reports, and medical images through Sentara’s PCAS system, said Elise Spoto, director of Physician Practice Solutions for Sentara. “But what they see is limited and, for the most part, the EMR is view-only,” Spoto said.
MedNet will enable an EMR to move seamlessly with the patient as they go to different hospitals, clinics or doctors’ offices, Meadows said. The primary benefits are for the patient, as doctors can easily see and take into account all existing medical conditions, prescriptions, allergies, etc., Spoto said. This view would include emergency-room doctors who may see a patient that is not conscious or is unable to respond, she said.
“The purpose of this solution was to facilitate extension of the technology out to physician practices,” Spoto said. “MedNet doesn’t provide value to the hospital – what MedNet will allow us to do in this community is provide a longitudinal patient record. In the big picture, my doctor who treats me in the office and who comes to the hospital has that longitudinal view.”
Doctors can benefit as well, by gaining access to technology through the ASP model that is economical and easier to deploy than acquiring the servers, software and IT support that would be required to do this on their own, Spoto said. Using the EMR to manage office workflow and patient recordkeeping can save doctors money and enable them to operate more efficiently.
Sentara began planning MedNet more than two years ago and reached out to Cox, which has been Sentara’s voice and data services provider. The two companies have worked together in a lab environment to bring together a secure OC-192 backbone network from Cox with the EPIC EMR system that Sentara is using to create the application service that Sentara can then sell to non-affiliated physicians and clinics. EPIC is a private vendor of EMRs in competition with other players such as General Electric.
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© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
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