Local hospitals to swap vital patient records through online server

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - It's a time saving, cost saving and possibly life-saving new program at Charleston area hospitals, but it may mean your private medical records will be swapped online. The new technology allows hospitals involved to be linked up for the quick exchange of patient information.

They say it is all secure and will lead to the best patient care possible. Emergency department doctors say having all a patient's records available on an online server will allow for a quicker diagnosis.

"We have a much more robust data set when a particular patient comes to the emergency department who has been seen at Trident and now showing up at Roper or was at Roper now showing up at the medical university," Roper Saint Francis ED physician Dr. Ank Clarkson said.

The program by Carolina e-Health Alliance connects the hospitals onto a single network to exchange a patient's records. Partners include East Cooper Medical Center, Medical University of South Carolina, Roper Saint Francis Healthcare and Trident Health System.

"Just at the medical university alone, you can save about a million dollars a year of extra unnecessary costs through implementation of this system. In the Charleston region and beyond, we're talking multi-millions of potential saving," MUSC President Dr. Ray Greenberg said.

With a few keystrokes and clicks of a mouse, healthcare providers have quick and secure access to patient information including medical history, medical treatment and past test results.

"In the past we didn't have access to those test results and now we do. So we're able to move past that and get to a diagnosis much more quickly," Dr. Clarkson said.

Charleston area hospitals modeled the records exchange network after a program in Memphis. They studied the program for a year before it was activated at 11 area hospitals.

The next step the hospitals say is to expand the program to include nearly 900 physicians in the area by the end of the year. The program has been funded with nearly $3 million in grants from the Duke Endowment, which is enough to keep the program online for three years.

Copyright WCSC 2012. All rights reserved.