JPS Health Network converting patient records to digital today

JPS Health Network patient records go digital today.

The county hospital district was scheduled to activate its $110 million Epic electronic medical record system at 5:30 a.m., a switch that JPS officials say will finally allow clinicians an immediate and comprehensive "end-to-end view of each patient's medical history."

"This is a big step for us," CEO Robert Earley said.

The new system includes new patient resources, such as access to "patient portals" allowing them to access some medical record information from home, said Steve Filler, interim chief information officer and Epic project director. They can also schedule some appointments online.

"But the biggest benefit is a comprehensive level of care," Filler said. "That means if I am going from a clinic to the emergency room to the hospital, the medical record will seamlessly go from Point A to Point B to Point C and follow me through the entire patient journey."

The new system was set to go live for the entire network, from ambulatory care clinics to the main hospital, health network officials said.

Digital records will be particularly helpful in the trauma center, the only Level 1 Trauma Center in Tarrant County, Earley said. Medical personnel will have quick access to such information as patients' allergies and medications for critically injured patients airlifted to the trauma ward.

Earley added that Texas Health Resources, another large hospital network in Tarrant County, uses the same system, allowing for smooth communication between networks. That will lead to "a continuum of care that we think is hugely beneficial," Earley said.

Some hitches are expected. Initially, patients should expect slower registration as hospital workers adjust. Providers have been asked to temporarily reduce their schedules, Filler said.

"Once the patients are actually in the system, then they will have a higher quality of care," he said.

The transition involved 63,000 hours of training for 4,500 JPS employees and 750 physicians, Filler said.

Earley likened the learning process to getting a new cellphone -- figuring out all the new features causes headaches until you get the hang of them.

He said he talked recently to a hospital administrator whose healthcare system recently made a similar transition.

"The administrator told me, 'Yeah, it's tough,'" Earley said. "But he said that, a year and half later, he would face pure mutiny if they had to go back to paper. Being able to do it all at a computer is a great thing."

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1