Hospital emergency departments are finding a good reason to charge ahead with electronic medical systems: They save money.
Mount Sinai Hospital in New York can prove it. The hospital has been using an emergency department information system since the summer of 2004. The system automates everything--from the initial triaging of patients to retrieving lab results to juggling bed assignments to billing--enabling doctors and nurses to spend more time focusing on patients. In the first two years of the program, the hospital's emergency department experienced a $7.5 million increase in revenue and a 50 percent decrease in the average length of patient stay. The electronic system has also raised the rate of chart completion by nurses and doctors and eliminated the problem of lost charts.
Mount Sinai's tallies come as states and the Bush administration are looking at ways to hook every hospital and doctor's office up to an electronic medical records system in the next 10 years. EMRs could further enhance the effectiveness of the emergency-room system.
Although less than one-third of the nation's emergency departments have invested in electronic medical systems, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several that have show results similar to Sinai's. "Our leadership and legislatures," says Dr. Kevin M. Baumlin, director of informatics for Mount Sinai's E.R., "should be offering some sort of block grants to fund this type of work."