Originally published on September 7, 2016 in The Observer
By Aidan Lewis | Wednesday, September 7, 2016
This year, University Health Services (UHS), based in St. Liam Hall, has implemented Electronic Medical Records (EMR), a move director Sharon McMullen says will improve the quality and efficiency of care on campus.
The change from paper to electronic records has a multitude of upsides, McMullen said, including an increase in student safety.
“Our EMR interfaces with a national drug pharmacy database, and if we prescribe a medication that a student has an allergy to, the EMR alerts us to that,” McMullen said.
McMullen said the EMR will also increase the efficiency of care, since the use of paper charts in the past meant necessary patient information was much harder to organize and locate.
“The student waits while we go scurrying around for the paper charts, so it disrupts the continuity of care,” McMullen said.
In addition, McMullen said the EMR will make it easier for students to monitor their own medical information.
“The EMR brings our patient portal into the 21st century, so now we can transmit a student’s lab results directly to her through a secure portal,” she said.
McMullen said another major positive of the switch to EMR is access to an enormous amount of data.
“We have the ability to take big data, and use it to improve the quality of the Notre Dame student population, because now we’ll be able to make data-driven decisions,” she said.
For example, McMullen said if she sees an earlier than expected spike in influenza patients, UHS can “bump up [their] flu vaccine blitz” in response.
However, the rollout of EMR will not be without its challenges for UHS, she said.
“The convenience comes at a really high cost of learning curve,” McMullen said. “So say you’re a provider and you’ve been working for 20 years, and you’re used to paper records, and now suddenly you’ve got this big, complex system to learn.”
As a result, McMullen said UHS will require time to reach the high level of efficiency she eventually expects with EMR. In the meantime, McMullen said, UHS is adjusting so students are not neglected during this transition.
“We’re really concerned about students having to wait to get in to see providers, so to combat that, we’ve loosened up our scheduling, we’ve asked our providers to come off of their administrative time, and we’ve doubled up at some high volume times,” McMullen said.
Currently, McMullen said UHS is also conducting an Organizational Analysis and Design (OAD), which is a process aimed at finding avenues for positive change within an organization.
“We’re at a place right now where we can really think more comprehensively about what our current students need, and question whether we are really meeting the needs of contemporary college students,” she said.
One goal of the OAD process is to continue and expand medical education for UHS’s clinicians, which has been a focus of McMullen’s since she became director over two years ago.
“We are trying to clarify both financial and operational support for clinicians to go to conferences, to pay for their licensure, and to engage in professional studies,” McMullen said.
McMullen said another goal for the future is to provide care at a greater range of times.
“I think our students need availability to providers beyond the nine to five,” McMullen said.