MASON CITY — Mercy Family Clinics in Mason City and the surrounding area are switching from paper patient charts to electronic charts, an official with Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa announced.
To accommodate electronic charting, the clinics are changing some of their processes to benefit both patients and providers, said Dr. Joseph Behr, a family practice physician at the Forest Park Clinic and Mercy’s Medical Director of Ambulatory Informatics.
The electronic medical records have been implemented at the Women’s Health Center and Mercy Family Clinics at Regency, Northwood and Sheffield.
On Dec. 3, Mercy Family Clinic-Forest Park in Mason City will switch from its current electronic record to the same system being implemented in other clinics, Behr said.
Eventually, all Mercy Family Clinics and Specialty Clinics will adopt the new electronic record.
“The problem with paper charts is that they can only be in one place at a time and there is a delay in getting new information into the chart,” Behr said.
Behr said the electronic charts can be accessed from any computer in Mercy’s clinics or hospitals, with proper password access. Details from the appointments will be entered into the electronic chart during the office visit, making them available in the chart immediately.
With the new clinic process, most follow-up appointments will be scheduled with the patient while still in the exam room, providing increased privacy for the patient.
Additionally, patients will be given a printed care plan at the end of the visit, detailing any future appointments, changes in prescriptions or other important information from the office visit.
“This is a big undertaking for clinicians and clinic staff,” Behr said. “We are learning a whole new process for seeing patients in our clinics.”
In the first few weeks after the electronic record is implemented, health care providers expect they will need to spend more time with each patient, Behr said.
“It still means that you might spend more time in the exam room for your appointment, but hopefully it will not mean a long wait in the waiting room prior to the appointment.”