Health Care

April 24, 2014

New Via Christi system provides faster access to records, compiles data

Via Christi Health is implementing an $85 million electronic health records system to allow providers and patients faster access to their records, officials say.

Via Christi Health is implementing an $85 million electronic health records system to allow providers and patients faster access to their records, officials say.

The system is a pilot program for Ascension Health, the nation’s largest nonprofit and Catholic health care system, which acquired Via Christi last year.

“Without this capability, we can’t begin to do the work needed in health care,” said Abdul Bengali, Via Christi’s chief information officer, citing the need for less waste in health care. “We need to improve quality and be good stewards of our patients’ dollars.”

The system, called OneChart, will go live on June 1 for all of Via Christi’s Wichita hospitals and clinics. The vendor for the project is Cerner in Kansas City.

In 2015, the system will be expanded to Via Christi locations in Pittsburg, Manhattan, McPherson and Wamego as well as its senior housing throughout the state.

Other Ascension-affiliated hospitals and clinics are expected to be able to use the system as well and share information in the future, Bengali said.

Currently, Via Christi hospitals and clinics use more than 15 different systems that don’t all work together at the various locations, said Brendan Rice, family physician and senior administrator for medical information at Via Christi.

The scope of the project is massive, Rice said. For example, the new system is being filled with more than 7.1 million documents, 410,000 medication records, 1.3 million immunization records and 7.6 million patient encounters and histories, he said.

Via Christi is also training its staff members, including nurses and physicians, on how to use the new program, said Mia Kaufman, registered nurse and senior director of OneChart and health care informatics. On average, each nurse is going through 14 hours of training.

Sam Antonios, a hospitalist at Via Christi and senior administrator for medical information, said he’s looking forward to being able to have patient information more quickly since physicians will no longer have to fax or request information from other departments and wait for it.

He also thinks there will be fewer incidents with illegible orders from doctors, because they will enter all orders electronically, which will improve patient safety.

“It will help improve communication between physicians in and out of the hospital as well as patient transitions,” Antonios said.

When patients with specific diseases are discharged from the hospital, the system will also be able to give them specific information that is relevant to their diseases for follow-up care.

Patient portal

The project includes a website for patients to access their medical records. The site will be available at, and patients will need to register in order to use it.

“We’re very excited, because it’s really involving patients in their care,” Rice said.

The website will allow patients to see their test results, schedule appointments and send secure messages to their physicians.

“Patients are not empowered today,” Bengali said. “They are at our mercy to give them information that is theirs. The patient portal is our attempt to really empower them.”

Over time, the new system will be able to collect data on patients that can be used to see trends among large groups of patients.

The data will allow physicians to see whether quality measures are helping patients and to see what changes can be made so that patients can be healthier.

“It’s really dependent on data,” said Ed Hett, family physician and Via Christi’s medical director for new models of care.

“A lot of our data presently has to come from claims data, which has a significant lag, and claims don’t follow through for at least six months. What we’re anticipating this will do is give us current data where we will know exactly what’s happening today because we were able to access that and better coordinate the care, especially those patients that are the sickest. They don’t have six months for us to coordinate the care. We need to do that immediately,” he said.

For example, physicians will be able to see large data sets to see how well they are managing diabetes in patients, Hett said.

“What we would want to know is quality data, which could tell us how good we’re doing at managing diabetes,” Hett said. “(We can track) whether we’re improving Hemoglobin A1c ... and better design systems to track those outliers.”

The portal will also help the hospital be compliant with increased Medicare requirements linked to reimbursements.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has established what it calls “meaningful use,” a set of standards hospitals and providers can use to earn incentives if they meet the criteria, including the integration of electronic health records.

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