Software created by clinical researchers at Geisinger Health System can help solve many of the problems related to electronic health records (EHRs) typically encountered by physicians who care for patients with chronic diseases, according to the rheumatologist who developed it.
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Known as Rheum-PACER, the Web-based system empowers providers and patients by integrating, in real time, information streams from four disparate sources—the EHR, the patient, the nurse and the physician—into a series of actionable views.
“Rheumatologists need to be able to take massive amounts of information and synthesize it in a logical way,” says Eric Newman, MD, director of the Department of Rheumatology, vice chair for clinical innovations in the Division of Medicine at Danville, Pa.,-based Geisinger and lead author of a recently published study in Arthritis Care & Research about the software.1
“We need to understand how our patients are doing over time, in the context of the treatment we are giving them,” Dr. Newman adds. “We’ve been waiting for the stars to align, in terms of our vision and the necessary [information technology] IT. It’s a very simple concept, but one that is almost impossible in most EHRs. They weren’t designed for management of complex chronic diseases.”
Rheum-PACER works like this: Patients check in and, using a touchscreen device, complete a comprehensive questionnaire. Nurses follow up and expand the intake information with patients, and then the software aggregates this new information with the EHR and other databases.
“The easiest way to think of this is that our providers walk into the exam room at 60 mph, instead of at 0 mph,” Dr. Newman says. “We cover so much more territory in our clinic visit; it’s a more empowered and engaged visit.”
The study showed that the software improved productivity by 26%, with most of the improvement occurring in chart review and documentation, Dr. Newman says. Results also showed a strong correlation “between software usage and disease control, and a relative increase in patients with low-disease activity.”
“I think that is a testimony to ‘you don’t understand what you don’t measure,’” Dr. Newman adds. “When you start measuring in an objective fashion and have real-time information and tracking, it gives physicians the ability to make better patient-centered decisions and move the bar, if you will, in terms of disease control.”
“We are not saying that it is the software, specifically, but it certainly appears the software played a significant role in our ability to manage patients to a better degree of disease control,” he adds. (posted 1/12/15)