Lewis and Clark Behavioral Health Services (LCBH) in Yankton, South Dakota, provides services to more than 3,300 clients each year who are grappling with mental health and chemical dependency issues. With such sensitive patient information entrusted to their care, the team at LCBH approached conversion to an electronic health record (EHR) with caution, and a keen focus on patient privacy and security.
At the same time, LCBH hoped to use the EHR to address an issue with their existing medical records system. LCBH clinical staff see the majority of their clients outside the walls of the agency, at clients’ houses, schools, nursing homes, and other sites. But under LCBH’s records policy, clinicians could not carry patient charts with them outside the facility.
“Patient privacy and security is always an important issue for us,” said Brenda Hoxeng, administrative assistant and EHR Project Manager at the not-for-profit agency. But she added, “It was important to us in choosing the right EHR that it be clinician-friendly. Our staff needed to be able to access patient records remotely.”
Hoxxeng and the staff at LCBH worked closely with their local regional extension center (REC), Dakota State University/HealthPOINT, to ensure that they would have the right balance of functionality and patient privacy as they worked through the launch of their EHR and Meaningful Use Stage 1.
DSU/HealthPOINT helped LCBH evaluate 20 EHR vendor programs, using a variety of questions to help LCBH focus in on their “must-have” features. LCBH ultimately chose a system that included a mobile solution with encrypted laptops that clinicians can use to access patient information while they are seeing patients outside the facility.
The agency’s EHR went live on October 1, 2013, and the mobile component of the EHR system launched in 2014.
Patients will benefit from this new system, Hoxeng said, because “physicians will have more knowledge of what the patient they are meeting with is going through.”
DSU/HealthPOINT continued its support of LCBH by conducting a security risk assessment, out of which came a recommendation that the agency conduct more training with staff to highlight good privacy and security practices.
“We’re going to start having a more formal training program, with refreshers and reminders about the steps we should all be taking,” Hoxeng said. In addition, clinical staff who will have access to the encrypted laptops will be receiving special training from a security perspective.
“The staff needs to understand that when they have that laptop in their possession, what they’re carrying with them is huge.”