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Winter 2013

UCLA Health System is Going Electronic

This will allow integration of inpatient and outpatient clinical records with appointments, registration, billing and other patient-related business functions throughout UCLA Health System.

UCLA Health is going electronicUCLA Health will begin rolling out its electronic-health-record program on March 1, 2013. This will allow integration of inpatient and outpatient clinical records with appointments, registration, billing and other patient-related business functions throughout UCLA Health. Physicians, pharmacists, nurses and other clinicians and staff members will use the system. Janet P. Pregler, M.D., a UCLA physician and member of the electronic-health-record Executive Oversight Board, discussed how patients will benefit from the new electronic environment.

What are the major changes with the new system?
For many years, UCLA has had a partial electronic medical-record system. When patients come to see their primary-care physician, that physician has computer access to the patient’s hospital records, laboratory tests and notes from consultants. But the new system will take that to another level. From the patient’s perspective, there are two major changes. Through a secure e-mail and Web portal called MyUCLAHealth, which will become available in the summer, patients will have the ability to communicate electronically with their doctor’s office for things like making Dr. Janet Pregler, M.D.appointments, checking on the status of referrals and obtaining laboratory results. A second big change is that all of our physicians will be documenting office visits electronically in real time, as opposed to the traditional method of writing it in a chart or dictating it after the patient leaves. Finally, at the end of each visit, patients will receive a printed after-visit summary that will include their doctor’s recommendations as well as information about referrals, new medications and other areas of follow-up.

How does all of this enhance the quality of care for patients?
It will improve the information that physicians have available to them at the time of the visit, and enable them to more thoroughly record what they learn during the visit. When I go in the room to see a patient, there will be a screen that shows me immediately all of the important things I need to know. There will be information that comes to us directly from the patient’s pharmacy about prescriptions the patient is filling. Often, patients were prescribed a medication from an emergency room or specialist and don’t remember the name of it, or for whatever reason they haven’t been refilling their prescription. Now we will have that information. We will also be able to see what allergies they have, and what tests they might need for their preventive health. In the current system it can take time to figure out, as an example, if a woman needs a mammogram. In the new system, we will have that information in front of us when we see the patient, even if the visit was for another purpose.

How will this change the experience for the patient in the doctor’s office? Is there any concern that it will get in the way of the ability of patients to converse with their physician?
Some patients have asked whether this means their doctor will be looking at the computer screen instead of at them. We are adamant about making sure this preserves the time we spend with the patient. The medical-records system we are using gives doctors maximum flexibility to be able to record the visit in such a way that we’re not constantly typing into the computer. We are also re-engineering our offices so that the computer keyboard and screen are placed in such a way that we can easily talk to patients while entering the information, analogous to how we have held a chart to make notes in the past. And it will be set up so that we can easily show the patient something on the computer screen, such as an X-ray or laboratory test.

Dr. Janet Pregler, M.D. How will MyUCLAHealth make things more convenient for patients?
Once it’s fully implemented over the next one-to-two years, patients will be able to electronically contact their doctor’s office to make appointments, inquire about referrals, and ask questions about a medication side effect or other non-urgent matters. MyUCLAHealth can also be used by the doctor’s office to send information about routine laboratory tests. All of these communications will be secure — the only people who will see them are the people directly involved in the patient’s care. We are stressing that MyUCLAHealth is only for nonurgent matters. If there is a lifethreatening emergency, patients still need to call 9-1-1, and they still should call the doctor’s office with other urgent problems.

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