Critical Access Hospital Connects to HIE

Date: September 17th, 2014Category: CORHIO e-NewsletterTopics: CORHIO Network, Colorado Hospitals & Health Systems, Critical Access Hospitals

Estes Park Medical Center begins sending clinical information to the CORHIO HIE.

A critical access hospital (CAH) is often the backbone of a rural community’s health care system, providing 24-hour emergency care, maternity care and other inpatient services, as well as some outpatient care. Estes Park Medical Center (EPMC), a 25-bed critical access hospital, is just that for the picturesque town at the foot of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The town of Estes Park is more than 30 miles of twisting canyon road away from the nearest large, full-service hospital. It could take nearly an hour — or more in bad weather — to reach the closest facility. So for emergency care, the town’s 6,000 residents and three million annual visitors depend heavily on EPMC. But the hospital is more than just an urgent care clinic or a small CAH with limited services, it’s one of the most sophisticated CAHs in the state.

EPMC Innovates in Several Areas

EPMC is technologically advanced — they use an electronic health record (EHR) system and are attesting to Meaningful Use. They’ve also recently introduced an online patient portal that serves both their hospital and their outpatient clinic patients. Additionally, the hospital recently connected to the CORHIO health information exchange (HIE) network. Through its connection to the HIE, EPMC is automatically sending patient clinical results into the network, including laboratory results, radiology reports and information on patient admissions, discharges and transfers. These results are useful for both local providers coordinating patient care and for hospitals along the Front Range that receive transferred patients with critical illnesses and traumatic injuries who need more advanced medical care.

Being a Small Hospital Has Its Advantages

It can be difficult for many CAHs to implement EHRs and other information technology systems due to budget limitations from shrinking reimbursements and limited staff with health IT expertise. However, as Gary Hall, VP of Information Services and CIO for EPMC, says, “One of the huge advantages of being small is that there is little bureaucracy, and lines of communication are compact and easily maintained.”

Speaking specifically about the recent HIE implementation, Hall said, “We only had three primary participants manning the project. Having a small, mobile, well-communicating team helped the project move along quickly and efficiently.”

Christina Ells, CORHIO HIE Implementation Manager, agrees, “It was a relatively quick process. It took just four months. Most of the large hospital HIE implementations have taken much longer.”

Better Care Coordination for Seriously Ill and Injured Patients

Despite the “big hospital” clinical capabilities that EPMC offers patients, some patients need more advanced care only available at larger hospitals along the urban corridor. With HIE technology in place, a hospital preparing to receive a patient from EPMC can electronically access complete and up-to-date clinical information, including test results and doctors’ notes. Many times, the information is accessible prior to the patient’s arrival at the large hospital so a treatment plan can be established and put into action more quickly.

“We transfer a lot of patients down to the larger hospitals on the Front Range — stroke victims, patients that require an ICU and others,” says Hall. “It’s a great advantage in those transfers, for the hospitals and providers receiving the patients, to have access to CORHIO’s PatientCare 360® tool, and to be able to quickly look at clinical results from EPMC. Use of the CORHIO system helps reduce the need to send information about the transferred patients by more primitive methods — such as paper, faxing and email — and helps expedite patient care.”