Most Wired: Digital Imaging Streamlines Process, Reduces Delays

There was a time not so long ago when images from heart tests needed to be burned to a CD and stored away to preserve for future reference.

That process took up a lot of space and it consumed a great deal of time when physicians wanted to pull up the historical clinical record, since it required physically locating it. There was also the risk that discs could be misfiled, making the record more difficult to find. And with EKGs, for example, needing to be printed and scanned individually, the process used a great deal of paper.

Electronic medical records have changed all that.

Whether doctors are using an electrocardiogram, or EKG, to test the electrical activity of the heart and look for abnormalities, or whether they’ve sought clues in an echocardiogram, which creates a moving picture of the heart to determine its health, the images are now available within seconds from their computer.

“It’s really amazing to see how far technology has come,” said Anita Bach, the director of cardiac services. “The physicians and staff now have immediate access to the information they need, anywhere in the hospital.”

Bach explained on the echocardiogram, which is more detailed than an X-ray since it allows doctors to see the heart beating, the technicians used to have to write measurements on a piece of paper while doing the test. Those measurements would subsequently be dictated by a physician and then transcribed afterward. Entering the measurements electronically has eliminated the need for transcription, shaving hours off the turnaround time for results.

The electronic imaging capabilities also are used in the vascular and gastrointestinal labs, which used to be scanned on paper into the medical record.

“This technology has not only led to greater efficiencies, but the important thing is that it has allowed for enhanced patient care through faster diagnosis and access to integrated information,” Bach said. “It also ensures a complete, accurate permanent archive of historical clinical information.”

TMC case study highlights achievements of instituting Stage 7 EMR

Last month, Tucson Medical Center was among 16 hospitals and health systems recognized at the HIMSS12 annual conference in Las Vegas for achieving the pinnacle of implementation of its electronic medical record. Since 2005, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s Analytics’ EMR Adoption Model has tracked the adoption of ell has tracked the adoption of electronic medical record applications within hospitals and health systems across the United States. Institutions work to complete the 8 stages (0 – 7), with the goal of reaching Stage 7: an environment where paper charts are no longer used.

As part of its recognition of these systems and facilities, HIMSS published case studies on 14 Stage 7 hospitals, including Tucson Medical Center, that provide insight and guidance that other health care organizations can emulate. They are also a summary of each winner’s journey to the top of the EMRAM.

Only 65 hospitals in the United States have Stage 7 EMRs. A study by HIMSS and The Advisory Board show they have a very real competitive and quality advantage, as they support the true sharing, information exchange and immediate delivery of patient data to improve process performance, quality of care and patient safety. New research from HIMSS Analytics and The Advisory Board affirms these gains, showing that hospitals with advanced EMR systems report achieving a broad range of benefits, including quality, safety and operational efficiencies.

The data collected for the report, EMR Benefits and Benefit Realization Methods of Stage 6 and 7 Hospitals, indicates that highly advanced EMR environments can produce substantial benefits for individual hospitals and the health care system as a whole. The survey is the first to report results from hospitals that have achieved Stage 6 or Stage 7, providing unique insight into how ERM systems are working for hospitals further along the development track.


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461