Dottie Bringle, R.N., serves as chief nursing officer of St. John’s Mercy Hospital in Joplin, MO. In May of 2011, she was on her way to Ireland for a vacation when the devastating Joplin tornado struck. She rushed back home to find her hospital destroyed – but that all patient health records were safe because of its EHR system. Here is Ms. Bringle’s story:
We [previously] decided to go with the “big bang” approach and transition the entire hospital to EHRs at once. When St. John’s transitioned to EHRs, it was somewhat overwhelming and was fairly time consuming. A lot of training took place prior to the actual implementation to ensure that hospital staff was as prepared as possible before going live.
I wasn’t convinced – I knew that EHRs were important for patient safety, but thought that it would slow down patient care.
And then the storm hit. [Paper] medical records were flying all over the community.
A command center was set up at Memorial Hall, the local auditorium, along with a mobile tent that the Army helped construct. Having an EHR system allowed us to:
- Account for all patients who were in our hospital. We were able to locate each and every one fairly quickly after the tornado hit.
- Forward patient records to other facilities within two hours of the evacuation due to our EHR system. This included previous and current medical histories.
This was especially important for our sister hospital in Springfield, where many of our patients were transferred. It would have been difficult to help manage the care of our patients without EHRs.
Now I am an absolute believer! In fact, one of my nurses told me: “That very day [when the tornado hit Joplin], I had decided that maybe I like this EHR thing.” This experience has changed people’s minds – 99 percent of the people in the Mercy community are now believers too.
It can be a difficult transition; however, I believe EHRs give providers quick and easy access to patient information, which allows them to provide comprehensive care. If people are skeptical, they should remember that the patient should always be the most important thought we have as we deliver care.