Paramedics, doctors can share patient records with new system

EVERETT — Diagnosing a patient is not always a clear science.

A new electronic medical-records system is making this process more accurate and safer.

After three years of planning, Fire District 7 partnered with Providence Regional Medical Center Everett in November to launch a system that allows emergency response personnel and doctors to share patient health records in near real time.

On Dec. 6, the Healthcare Information Management System Society awarded Providence with a level seven accreditation. That means the hospital has one of the most advanced medical-record systems, Providence spokeswoman Lisa Daly said.

Fewer than 5 percent of more than 5,000 hospitals have received this accreditation, she said.

All fire districts in Snohomish County have opted to use this system, said Scott Dorsey, deputy chief of emergency medical services at Fire District 7. The Edmonds and Mill Creek campuses of Swedish Medical Center also have upgraded their electronic records.

Under the old system, a paramedic would fill out a report, identifying symptoms the patient exhibited. Doctors did not have access to these reports.

The paramedic would take the patient to the hospital and present his or her medical history. The emergency room physician then would take over patient care.

Oftentimes physicians have questions for paramedics when they’re evaluating a patient, said Dr. Ryan Keay, medical director of the emergency department at Providence.

That paramedic already may be across town responding to another call.

It’s not easy to track them down, Keay said.

With the new system, the paramedic’s report can be uploaded to the patient’s hospital records within minutes.

“Medics are our eyes and ears,” Keay said.

They witness where the emergency occurred and can relay details about what may have contributed to the health problem.

These details help physicians piece together a diagnosis.

Any doctor, no matter how far downstream, has access to paramedics’ reports.

This reduces the risks for patients during hand-offs between doctors, Keay said. Now everyone has the same information to use in medical decisions.

The new system also is a learning tool for emergency responders.

Paramedics can view the doctor’s final diagnosis and compare it to their own.

“We think someone might be having an appendicitis,” Dorsey said. “We know what the signs and symptoms might be, but it’s a guess.”

Before, the hospital would have to physically scan the patient’s records if the fire department wanted copies.

“It’s like someone opened a flood gate,” Dorsey said. “It’s so much more enlightening now. It’s either a confirmation or an opportunity to learn.”

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins@heraldnet.com.

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