Lake County health clinics moving to electronic records
Updated: October 29, 2012 11:56AM
People who rely on Lake County Health Department clinics for their health care have found cuts in service during walk-in hours as the department began implementing a new electronic medical record.
The massive shift to electronic storage of medical data by the department has been underway for about two years, at a cost through April 2012 of $3.8 million, according to department spokeswoman Leslie Piotrowski.
During the first phase, appointment-taking, laboratory, financial and demographic information and billing were transferred from paper records to electronic storage. Under the newest phase of the project, physicians and staff are being trained to use new computer software to electronically gather health histories and record information on tests, treatments and prescriptions.
Denise Koppit, Health Department associate director of primary care services, acknowledged the training has temporarily cut by half the number of walk-in patients seen at the department’s clinics in Waukegan, Zion, North Chicago, Highland Park and Round Lake Beach.
“We’re learning new systems which totally change the way we gather information about patients,” Koppit said, noting “it was a little bumpy” the first day, Sept. 5, but Sept. 6 “it was a little better.”
Next year, the department will add an electronic dental record for patients, with completion of the electronic health record expected by next fall.
“We want to improve quality of care and increase efficiency so patients don’t go through multiple tests and so everyone can see medications,” Koppit said. “This will allow ready access to patient information. Patients will receive a printout of their diagnoses, medications and lab work.”
Patients who transfer to different providers, will receive their medical history and information in a paper file or on a flash drive.
The reductions in number of walk-in patients accepted hit the Zion clinic especially hard. One user, who contacted the Lake County News-Sun, said patients waiting outside the clinic “on any given day” look like “a Depression-era soup line” that snakes around the corner of 27th Street.
Koppit said that the Zion clinic, which also serves patients from Winthrop Harbor, Beach Park and Wadsworth, relies on just two physicians who typically treat between 12 and 15 walk-ins per day.
She admitted that regular appointments can take two months to schedule. “If somebody comes in very sick, we’re trying to get them squeezed in,” she said.