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An EPIC change for Sanford Bemidj; Health care provider to implement new computer system

Sanford Bemidji staff has been undergoing training this year to prepare for this weekend’s switch over to Sanford One Chart, a new computerized medical record system. Pictured are, sitting from left, Jane Messner, registered nurse, and Dr. Rod Will as they receive instruction Thursday morning from Deb Dittman, registered nurse, ambulatory clinical informatics. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — This weekend, all of Sanford Bemidji will switch to a new electronic medical record system as it ushers in Sanford One Chart.

The new system, which launches at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, is lauded as a way to enhance patient care and communication between patients and medical providers.

Unlike the status quo, which has the local hospital and clinic on separate, electronic records systems, Sanford One Chart will make available the same medical information to all Sanford health care providers.

When a patient who typically sees a primary care physician at the Sanford Bemidji main clinic seeks care in the medical center emergency room, the attending ER physician will then have access to his clinical health care history.

But while the actual act of providing health care won’t change, all aspects of delivering that care will be altered. That will result in temporary slowdowns for patients as registrations, for example, will take longer as staff adjusts to the new system.

"After six to eight weeks, things start to settle in and people become very fluid with their job so they can do it more quickly," said Mary Miller, director of clinical informatics for Sanford Bemidji. "I think even after one week, we’re going to see a big improvement."

Patients used to going straight to the lab will need to first register.

"There will be some inconvenience for patients short-term that they are not used to," said Joy Johnson, interim president for Sanford Bemidji. "It’s a matter of getting the staff comfortable with the new technology and process."

‘significant advantages’

Sanford One Chart, operated by Epic computer systems, will do more than integrate electronic records within Sanford Bemidji.

Johnson said there would be "significant advantages" to the system, including built-in features such as bar-coding medication administration, a technology-driven system that ensures a patient receives the right dose of the right medication at the right time. The medication will be scanned in and matched with the armband of a patient.

"If they don’t match, that would trigger it is the wrong medication," Johnson said, "That’s a big deal."

It also will be easier for physicians to enter orders themselves.

"We have learned over time that when physicians enter their own orders there are fewer mistakes made," Miller said. "This chart allows for that to happen."

There also are best practice alerts built into the system. For instance, if a diabetic patient seeks care at the walk-in clinic for a sore toe, an alert would prompt the physician or nurse to check the patient’s blood sugar and hemoglobin levels.

"There’s a lot of things built into the system like that, all of which will help the physician in the way that they practice medicine," Johnson said.

Additional benefits will come later, as Sanford will introduce the My Sanford Chart, which will allow patients to electronically access their medical records — including lab results and immunizations — and schedule or cancel an appointment. They also will be able to request a prescription refill and communicate with their physician or nurse.

‘elbow-to-elbow’ help

The Sanford One Chart already is operational in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Fargo, N.D., but at those sites, implementation happened gradually.

On Sunday, not only will the Bemidji clinics and hospital convert to the new system, but so will locations in Walker, Cass Lake, Blackduck and Kelliher.

"We’re the first place in Sanford to do the big bang implementation, which means everybody goes at the same time," Johnson said.

Staff has been preparing for the move for about 18 months and diligently working toward it the past five.

"It’s the best team," Miller said. "Fifteen hundred people working toward the same goal for five months."

No new permanent hires were made, though consultants and Sanford staff from Sioux Falls are coming here to provide assistance.

"The big (surge in) outside resources is happening at midnight Saturday night," Johnson said. "We estimate that over the course of the next two weeks we will have about 150 extra people here, who don’t work here, helping us … (as) elbow-to-elbow resources, where those people are at your elbow, telling you how to use the system."

Sanford reports that 11 training rooms have been in operation 14 hours a day, six days a week, for the past 12 weeks. Johnson said that in the last two-week pay period, Sanford Bemidji had 8,000 hours dedicated to training.

"It’s a major initiative," Miller said. "Most people will never work on a project of this size in their lifetime."