JERSEY SHORE - The days of tracking patient records by paper are increasingly disappearing.
Jersey Shore Hospital has become one of the more recent health care institutions to embrace electronic medical records.
And why not?
Carol Beatty, surgery technician for Dr. Thomas Connolly, an orthopedic surgeon at Jersey Shore Hospital, woks on a laptop in a patient room in the hospital. This lap top is just one of the many that the hospital is purchaseing so that doctors and nurses can view patient information and eliminate paper charts.
Health care experts say electronic records translate to better patient care, reduced medical errors, more secure information, and overall improved efficiency.
"It's a brand new project for us," said Renee Miller, manager of Jersey Shore Medical Associates, a physician practice group.
Miller noted that soon doctors, nurses, pharmacists and of course, patients will be connected.
The hospital is partnering with Jersey Shore Medical Associates and two other physician practices for electronic records technology.
To many people, electronic records perhaps means the mere downloading of patient records by doctors.
But it's more than that.
"It's a whole integrated system," Miller said.
It will involve not only medical records, but billing, pharmaceutical prescriptions, lab results, even patient appointments.
"Patients will be able to contact us through a patient portal. They have an access code, and they can request appointments, prescription refills," she said.
It means accessing information via personal computer from the convenience of one's home.
But personal access codes assigned to users keeps all information secure and private.
The system opens up communication between patients and physicians.
"We can check to see what a health insurer covers for prescriptions," she said.
An aspect of the system known as Prime Mobile allows physicians to access patient information from iPhones.
Again, privacy and security is ensured, she said.
Miller said use of the technology by physicians can mean bonuses through Medicare.
"You can receive the financial incentives if you are fully wired by July 1," she said.
Last year the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began awarding the bonuses to physicians who met meaningful use requirement for improving quality of care. It includes satisfying federal rules for use of electronic records.
Right now electronic records implementation at Jersey Shore represents a sort of work in progress.
Paper records of patients are being integrated into the electronic system.
"It's a gradual process," she said. "We have thousands of patients."