The traditional nurse's stations at St. Luke's University Health Network's hospitals are becoming a thing of the past as the health network "rolls" into the future.

Yes – rolls – as the nurse's stations are now fully mobile, putting the nurse's desk on wheels as the network's facilities have embraced an electronic medical records system.

In the past, a patient's bedside chart contained notes and condensed information, while the bulk of the information, including lab results, radiology studies and records of doctors' visits, was stored at the nurse's station or individual departments. Now, all of that information is immediately available at a patient's bedside.

"A well implemented Electronic Medical Records (EMR) allows caregivers to have easy access to complete patient information to be able to provide the highest level of care to each and every patient," explains Dr. Marc Portner, St. Luke's University Health Network's Chief Medical Informatics Officer and surgical intensivist.

"Having lab results, radiology studies and records of physicians' visits all in one source gives caregivers a complete picture of a patient's health – and research indicates this benefits patient safety and overall health. Additionally, the patient will have increased access to caregivers and will be able to truly be an advocate for his/her own health. This is a win-win situation for both patients and caregivers."

St. Luke's network provides health services at more than 150 sites in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. That figure includes six hospitals, including its facility in Coaldale, urgent care centers and primary care/specialist physicians' offices, as well as lab/testing, home health care, outpatient and hospice facilities. St. Luke's is actively working to incorporate the EMR into all of these sites, providing access to caregivers throughout the network. If a patient needs to see a specialist in Bethlehem, that doctor will be able to instantly access the notes and records from the patient's primary care physician.

From the nurses perspective, Alicia Schaeffer, RN, in St. Luke's Miners Hospital notes "It's much more efficient. I don't have to page through paper after paper looking for a change in the doctor's orders or the patient's treatment plan. There's immediate access to everything."

Jennifer Green, RN BSN, a patient care manager in the Coaldale facility, likes the system from a safety aspect.

"Dispensing medications is a lot safer. The patient's wrist band contains a bar code which matches one on their records. It's much easier, and safer, keeping track of any medication changes ordered by the doctor and the medications which are administered to the patient."

The EMR progress at St. Luke's hospitals in Pennsylvania has earned the network recognition from HIMSS Analytics, a wholly owned, not for profit, subsidiary of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. The company collects and analyzes healthcare data related to information technology (IT) and has determined St. Luke's has met all the requirements to receive Stage 6 Accreditation (out of 7). St. Luke's is the first health care network in the Lehigh Valley to earn this designation.

"Earning this honor is a significant recognition of the many individuals who have worked diligently to enable us to reach this level," notes Chad Brisendine, St. Luke's Chief Information Officer. "We are excited by this honor and are looking forward to the near future when St. Luke's EMR is fully implemented network-wide. This has been a complex process. We have been working on this project for the past two years."

William Moyer, president of St. Luke's Miners Campus, is excited about the future.

"Currently, our facilities are linked to our network physicians offices. Next will be the ability to provide patients access to their own records, improving safety and quality of care."

One of the biggest benefits of computerizing everything – never again having to try and decipher a physician's handwriting.