By JULIA MILLER
Whether you’ve been admitted to the hospital or checked into a clinic for a wellness checkup, it’s likely you have a firsthand understanding of the how much information is entrusted to your healthcare provider. Five hospitals in Mississippi are leading the charge in making sure that patient safety and privacy stay at the forefront in the today’s rapidly advancing technological age.
Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven, North Mississippi Health Services in Tupelo, St. Dominic — Jackson Memorial Hospital in Jackson and University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson were all named among Hospitals & Health Networks’ 2017 Most Wired.
These hospitals have striven to make sure make sure network capabilities and reliability continue to improve. This priority has become of the utmost importance as hackers have begun attacking hospitals for fraud and identity theft purposes.
“Privacy is certainly everyone’s right,” UMMC’s chief information officer Dr. Paul Veregge said. “It’s something you and I would be unhappy about if our information got out.”
Veregge, who came on board UMMC’s team nine months ago, said he was the victim of a breach of privacy about a year and a half ago. By attacking a large organization that Veregge preferred not to name, the hackers were able to gain payroll records and attempted to open a credit card in his name. With your health record, not only are you at risk of financial identity theft, but your medical ID can be used for fraud. It could then create a dangerous environment for you the next time you are treated.
“Say I was allergic to penicillin,” Veregge explained. “Someone who has stolen my information goes to the doctor and says ‘I’m not allergic to penicillin,’ so it’s removed from the chart. The next time I go in to be treated, the doctor would then believe penicillin could be safely used as a treatment option.”
Forrest General’s chief technology officer Vance Green explained its changes have also included a more regimented system for pharmaceuticals. Every container and every patient’s armband has a barcode on it. When the nurse distributes medication, she or he scans the medicine and scan the patient. The system then double checks that the patient is getting the right medication in the right dosage at the right time.
“This has been a huge advancement in eliminating medication errors.”
At King’s Daughter CTO Carl Smith said that in the last year it has implemented a new electronic health system, switching to a remote-based cloud system. This has allowed enhancement of security access control, including biometrics for employees and physicians to sign in with.
“Every hospital is having to add firewalls,” Smith said. “Everything is IT now. It used to just be a department. Now, every department is automated.”
Green said Forrest General integrated EPIC in 2013. This informational database allows patients to view their own charts as well as allowing charts to be shared between clinics within the same system. Forrest General is currently working to integrating all of the clinics in the Forrest General system. With hospitals and clinics throughout the southern part of the state, patient data can easily be transferred between locations and information remains in the same place.
“It’s helped patients in this part of the state,” he said. “It reduces overhead. It eliminates duplication of tests.”
Green explained that insurance companies won’t pay the cost of tests that are unnecessarily duplicated. In the past, this often resulted in the hospital absorbing the cost. With EPIC, the results are easily accessible at any of the clinics and hospitals connected to the EPIC network.
Furthermore, Green said with the permission from the patient, they can even electronically transfer medical records to other health-care systems that use the EPIC system, such as UMMC.
With online systems such as these, not only can patients check their charts online, but they can connect with nurses for quick questions or doctors for prescription refills.
Smith added that this is the second year in a row that King’s Daughters, the smallest healthcare system on the Mississippi list, has received the Most Wired award.
“I’ve tried to get this award for several years, and we finally got it last year. How do you top winning it? You get it twice.”
All these IT leaders have contributed the honor of this award goes to the hard work of their employees and the leadership of the hospitals, Smith said.
“The employees here take pride in what they do,” Smith said. “It’s more than just a job.”