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Editorial: E-health measures saving lives

This community found itself on the cutting edge of electronic health technology in 2000 when what was Fairview Red Wing Health Service began moving to electronic records and soon launched MyChart, one of the region’s first comprehensive electronic medical record systems open to both providers and patients.

MyChart was convenient, improved communication and empowered patients by giving them unprecedented access to their health information. MyChart put providers and patients literally on the same page.

Fast-forward to 2014. Most Minnesota hospitals and clinics have scrapped paper charts for electronic health records.

This year the local medical center, which became Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing two years ago, left the last traces of MyChart behind. All local records become integrated with Mayo Clinic’s new Patient Online Services.

People log into an account for lab results, clinical notes and medication lists. No more waiting until the end of the day when a provider squeezes in a plethora of calls to numerous patients. Have a question? Shoot a email or chat message to the provider team members who can respond more quickly. And you can make the most of their time when they do contact you in person.

The technology benefits local providers, too. They can log in to see a patient’s test results, charts, medical history and provider notes from any clinic in the system — not just the local one. Providers also can confer with specialists anywhere in the system in real time.

The savings in time and money are huge, beginning with the need for fewer redundant tests when a patient has to visit Mayo Clinic in Rochester, for instance.

It’s all thanks to better use of technology.

Last week the Minnesota Department of Health released its most recent e-health data as part of the annual Minnesota e-Health Summit. Key advances include:

•92 percent of clinics report that electronic health records alert them to potential medication errors.

•96 percent report that the electronic health records enhance patient care.

•76 percent of clinics use automated tools to identify needed preventive care services, such as automated reminders for missing lab tests.

•95 percent of clinics use medication guides and alerts.

Cleary, Minnesotans are benefitting from the e-health transformation. That’s especially true of Red Wing system patients who have 10 years’ experience with a technology seemingly so simple (today) as electronic medical records — a technology that can save lives and improve the quality of life.

The bar is set high here. We fully expect that Mayo Clinic and the Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls, Lake City and Red Wing will continue to lead the way in Minnesota’s e-Health Initiative. That means highly secure systems. It also means establishing and sharing best practices for using such technology to benefit individual patients and therefore the communities they call home.