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Health IT Success Stories

Peggy Patch Helps Her Federally-Qualified Health Center Build on Meaningful Use

'Health IT puts patients at the center of care.' –Peggy Patch

Peggy Patch is the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Coordinator at Community Health Care, Inc. (CHC), a federally-qualified health center (FQHC) offering medical and dental services to more than 37,000 patients. CHC serves a low-income population with limited access to health care at six locations in Iowa and Illinois. Ms. Patch was vital in helping CHC achieve meaningful use and use its EHR system to engage patients and build a patient-centered medical home (PCMH).

Building Support for Meaningful Use

As an FQHC, CHC serves patients with many health care needs, so meaningful use was initially not viewed as a top priority for CHC’s providers. Achieving meaningful use meant adding more work to their already jam-packed schedules. As the EHR Coordinator, however, Ms. Patch recognized how meaningful use could help CHC improve health care quality for its patients and sought to build support among CHC’s providers.

Ms. Patch partnered with Telligen Health IT Regional Extension Center (Telligen), which provided technical support throughout the meaningful use process. “Bringing in Telligen to educate the clinical staff about meaningful use and the new workflows gave them insight as to why meaningful use was important and how it could be integrated into our current workflows,” Ms. Patch explained. “Telligen’s educational support was critical to our success.” Ms. Patch also ensured that CHC maintained an open, collaborative environment for their providers. She encouraged providers to fill out “change forms,” for example, to suggest workflow improvements and made it a priority to highlight provider progress and celebrate success publicly. “We presented meaningful use progress reports from our EHR system to give our staff real-time information and incorporated fun activities, such as poems and songs about meaningful use, into our regular meetings to motivate providers,” said Ms. Patch. “Our providers were in part able to achieve meaningful use because we showed them appreciation and made it a fun process.”

Using HIT and Meaningful Use to Improve Quality

From the beginning, Ms. Patch recognized that meaningful use was not an end in itself, but rather a foundation for quality improvement. CHC uses its EHR system in multiple ways to improve the health care of its patients. It uses the EHR system, for example, to generate patient lists to identify patients with diabetes and encourage them to join group counseling sessions and peer-to-peer learning programs. “We are beginning to put together a plan for updating our diabetes education classes,” Ms. Patch said. “Our hope is to encourage our patients to engage with one another.” In addition to patient lists, Ms. Patch and CHC are using clinical summaries to improve health care quality. Clinical summaries – which include basic clinical information, such as medications prescribed, upcoming appointments, and other care plan instructions – are helping patients and their families take greater ownership of their health and health care. “With clinical summaries, we make it easy for patients to not only keep a record of their provider interactions but also to share their care plans with loved ones, which helps involve everyone in the patient’s care,” Ms. Patch explained.

CHC is continuing to build on meaningful use and in late 2013 obtained National Committee on Quality Assurance Level 3 PCMH recognition. Ms. Patch is looking forward to helping CHC tackle Stage 2 meaningful use in 2014 and broadening CHC’s Health IT capabilities to continue to improve health care quality.