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Bill Thompson, president/COO of
SSM Health Care, visits a Cardinal Glennon nursing station with treats on April 10, the first night electronic medical records were live.

SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center has officially made the switch to electronic health records in a long-planned move that makes health care safer for patients—and paper medical records extinct.

When Cardinal Glennon went live with electronic health records (EHR) on April 10, the change represented more than a higher level of pediatric care. The switch marked the completion of a two-year plan to convert all seven hospitals in SSM Health Care – St. Louis to the electronic health care system.

“This has been a long journey for St. Louis,” said Jim Sanger, president/CEO of SSM  Health Care – St. Louis. “While we view this as the end of the implementation across the network, in many ways it’s really the beginning of how we’re going to use this technology, mine this information to find better ways of doing things.

“The real issue now is: ‘How do we make the best use of that technology to do things better and smarter for patients?’”

The computer-based system of maintaining health records will boost patient safety by ensuring that doctors have immediate, accurate information about a patient’s medical history. This ability is crucial particularly in medical emergencies, when up-to-date information about a patient’s medications and conditions can mean the difference between life and death.

At a pediatric hospital like Cardinal Glennon, many patients cannot yet speak and therefore cannot communicate information about their condition. By linking into the networked EHR system called Epic, physicians can retrieve needed medical information immediately.

“This conversion means we will be able to care for patients with more safety, speed and convenience than ever before,” said Cardinal Glennon President Sherlyn Hailstone. “Parents rely on Cardinal Glennon to do the right thing for kids, and that's exactly what this is.”

Since March 2008, SSM Health Care has transitioned 10 hospitals to electronic health records. SSM Health Care, which plans to convert every hospital in the four-state system to EHR, has been recognized as a national leader in electronic health records.

Despite the significant technological advances, organization leaders recognize that excellent patient care remains the cornerstone of SSM Health Care’s mission.

 “We have spent a great deal of time, money and energy to install outstanding technologies,” said Bill Thompson, president/COO of SSM Health Care. “Our ability to improve care, to provide safer care would be impossible without this technology. But let’s never forget that it is simply technology. What really provides exceptional care for our patients is the people in our organization.

“Our job is to make sure the people who serve the patients have what they need, and Epic is going to be an essential tool for them in the future.”

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