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SEARHC Launches ALERT® Health Record Program


JUNEAU, July 22, 2010 — The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) on Wednesday, July 14, took a significant step forward in its four-year systems transformation project when SEARHC became the first health organization in the United States to launch the ALERT® Clinic software program at its Ethel Lund Medical Center in Juneau.

The ALERT® Clinic software program, from ALERT® Life Science Computing, Inc., is an electronic health record for ambulatory care clinics. ALERT® Clinic previously has been in use in seven other countries in Europe, Asia and South America, where the software program is known as ALERT® Private Practice. The ALERT® Clinic program will provide electronic health records for the appoximately 21,000 patients who visit the Ethel Lund Medical Center each year. The Ethel Lund Medical Center provides health services in family medicine, optometry, behavioral health, physical therapy, nutrition, disease prevention, wellness, specialty medicine and other fields, and ALERT® Clinic brings all of those patient records into one comprehensive system.

“When complete, SEARHC’s state-of-the-art system will allow us to better focus on increasing patient access to health care,” SEARHC President/CEO Roald Helgesen said.

The Ethel Lund Medical Center is the first SEARHC facility to begin using a comprehensive electronic health record (EHR) for all patient encounters. Now whenever a patient visits the Ethel Lund Medical Center in Juneau, medical staff are able to use a computer to access a complete patient record that includes lab results, medical imaging tests, medication records, chronic disease prevention and case management records and more. Making the switch to electronic health records will enable SEARHC to provide better health care to its patients.

“The ALERT® implementation at the Ethel Lund Medical Center has been very successful,” Ethel Lund Medical Center Clinic Administrator/Medical Director Dr. Janice Sheufelt said. “Overall, it has gone very smoothly. Note that this is a phased implementation over five weeks, so we currently are only using some features of the electronic health record. But we are expanding our use of the electronic health record on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis. The staff and patients have been very positive about the ALERT system.”

“It’s fantastic to see several years of hard work finally pay off with a successful go-live,” SEARHC Systems Transformation Project Manager Peter Apathy said. “So many SEARHC resources — nurses, providers, registrars, schedulers, information technology, business office and ancillary staff — were completely dedicated to making this work. Having seven ALERT® staff on site working side-by-side with us made a huge difference, too.”

The SEARHC systems transformation project started in 2008, when SEARHC launched several standalone computer programs for its business, laboratory, pharmacy, radiology and other functions. The various ALERT® software programs bring all of the clinical programs into one comprehensive system. In 2009, SEARHC made a limited-scope launch of the ALERT® EDIS (Emergency Department Information System) software program in its emergency room at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka, but only patients going through the emergency room had EHRs for their visit, and a printout of the encounter went with the rest of the patient’s paper chart By first launching just in the emergency room, it allowed SEARHC and ALERT® staff to develop new features for the software and fine-tune it before it was launched in one of the SEARHC clinics. Over the next several months, ALERT® will be rolled out at other SEARHC clinics starting with the Front Street Clinic in Juneau.

When SEARHC’s systems transformation project is finished in 2011, medical staff at any of SEARHC’s facilities will be able to access and update patient electronic health records in real time using ALERT®. SEARHC is a tribal health consortium of 18 remote Alaska Native communities scattered over an area about the size of Florida, including many communities that only can be reached by plane or boat. Many SEARHC patients see medical providers in their home village, then need to travel to Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka or the Ethel Lund Medical Center in Juneau for advanced care. Because paper records were used in all of SEARHC’s locations, it sometimes meant parts of a patient’s chart were located in different facilities (for example, one patient record might include provider notes from a clinic visit in Angoon, a lab result from Juneau and an MRI scan from Sitka). The new comprehensive electronic health record brings those parts of the patient file into one system. Once fully launched, the new system will include a special behavioral health section developed specifically for SEARHC, and patients will be able to create their own personal health records they can take with them if they ever need to travel or access health care outside the SEARHC system.

ALERT® Life Sciences Computing, Inc., is relatively new to the U.S. market, but its electronic health records programs are being used by 12,400 health care organizations worldwide, including in Portugal (where ALERT® was founded), Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Brazil and Malaysia. ALERT® has contracts or installations being completed at other U.S. facilities, including others associated with the Indian Health Service. ALERT® has had staff working with SEARHC for two years, adapting the products to U.S. needs. SEARHC will be a showcase site for ALERT® and will host other health care organizations looking to implement their own electronic health record programs.

“Going live at the Ethel Lund Medical Center, located in Juneau, Alaska, is proof that the U.S. market is demanding of our capability to respond to its needs,” said ALERT® Founder/President M. Jorge Guimarães, M.D., Ph.D. “We are committed to contributing to health care reform and achieving meaningful use at SEARHC. Importantly, this project will create a precedent for true paper-free clinical environments, management of clinical operations via workflow tools, and de facto implementation of a RHIO (Regional Health Information Organization).”

“SEARHC’s new electronic health record and systems transformation can serve as a model to other tribal organizations,” Helgesen said. “SEARHC is fully documenting the system transformation process so lessons learned can be shared with other tribal and rural health organizations.”

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