CHELAN — Public hospitals in Chelan and Omak are among the nation’s “most wired,” according to an American Hospital Association journal.
The Lake Chelan Community Hospital and Mid-Valley Hospital were among 25 small and rural hospitals to make the 2010 list. The Omak hospital also made the list last year.
The survey is conducted annually by the association’s Hospitals and Health Networks magazine, which received responses from 1,280 hospitals of all sizes representing 555 healthcare organizations across the country. Results were reported in the magazine’s July issue.
Both the Chelan and Omak hospitals use telemedicine to access specialists in Seattle, Spokane, and other parts of the country for diagnostic consultation and support.
They also use an electronic pharmacy to ensure that the right medications are given to patients.
And both are implementing the use of electronic medical records, which record a complete medical histories that can travel with patients who are sent to other facilities.
“For a small and rural hospital to make that list is no small task,” said Michael Weinstock, senior editor of the magazine. “These systems are hard to put in. They’re expensive, and for small and rural hospitals to make that kind of commitment is pretty impressive,” he said.
“The main reason we’ve done this is to improve the quality of care for our patients,” said Chelan hospital CEO Kevin Abel. The facility began switching from paper to electronic medical records in 2000.
Abel said the Chelan hospital is finding that electronic records are faster, more efficient, and allow more than one practitioner to access the information at the same time.
Their investment should pay off — perhaps as soon as next year — when the federal government will begin offering incentives through higher Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals that meet specific information technology qualifications, including use of electronic medical records.
Kelly Cariker, information systems manager for Mid-Valley Hospital in Omak, said hospitals that don’t meet certain information technology requirements by 2015 will begin to face penalties.
“We’re ahead of the curve, but that’s just a side benefit,” he said.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512