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Column: Inova Leverages Information Technology

Quick — can you name all the medications you’ve taken in the last six months? How many times a day did you take each medication? How many milligrams was each dose?

Many of us can’t rattle off that kind of information at the drop of a hat. However, providing an accurate medication history to a healthcare provider — especially during a medical emergency —I s crucial to helping physicians decide on a timely course of treatment that avoids potentially dangerous drug interactions.

For almost a year, Inova Alexandria Hospital has participated in a pilot project with the Northern Virginia Regional Health Information Organization, Inc., (www.novarhio.org) that seeks to eliminate that confusion. Known as MEDS-ED, the project enables our emergency department (ED) personnel to electronically access a patient’s medications no matter where in the United States those prescriptions were written. The information is automatically added into the patient’s electronic medical record from multiple data sources, then verified with the patient. Armed with timely and accurate information, our ED physicians can make more effective patient assessments, which may result in faster patient treatment.

So far the MEDS-ED project, which is funded by a Commonwealth of Virginia grant, has earned widespread acceptance among our emergency clinicians for its timeliness and improved accuracy, and among our patients whose consent was required for participation. Of the 64,000 patients treated in our ED in the last year, more than 90 percent opted-in to the pilot.

MEDS-ED is the latest example of Inova Alexandria Hospital’s long history of setting the standard for emergency medicine. Fifty years ago we were the first hospital in the nation to staff full-time emergency physicians around the clock. Our model, known as the "Alexandria Plan," is now the standard for hospitals nationwide. Today we are also one of the few hospitals in the region to have a full time medication reconciliation technician in the ED.

Now, thanks to NoVaRHIO and its participating organizations, we are laying the groundwork for Northern Virginia’s first health information exchange (HIE) in the emergency department setting. The aim is to eventually link all of the nation’s budding HIEs in a network for even greater coordination among caregivers. It represents the new paradigm in healthcare, which calls for creating electronic records of all patient data that allows a seamless exchange of patient information for improved outcomes and safety.

Inova Health System is committed to this new model: This year, Inova will launch an integrated electronic medical record system, called EpicCare, that will link a patient’s medical information from our five hospitals, outpatient treatment centers and participating community physicians. All sites will go-live by July 2013. So no matter which Inova facility you visit, your medical record will follow. It’s a strategy that will improve patient care and make us "One Inova" across all of Northern Virginia. It’s the future of health! Read more at inovaepiccare.org.

By Christine Candio, FACHE

Ceo, Inova Alexandria Hospital