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Plainville doc leads charge on e-records

7/2/2013

By Megan Hart

By Megan Hart

Topeka Capital-Journal

PLAINVILLE — All doctors might think they do a great job making their patients healthier, but now data can show if they really do, according to a Kansas doctor serving on a national commission.

Plainville physician Jennifer Brull was selected as one of 28 doctors and medical support staff chosen by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to find ways to turn electronic medical records into better outcomes. She is a board member of the Kansas Foundation for Medical Care and a physician with Prairie Star Family Practice, an affiliate of Post Rock Family Medicine.

The group met in Washington last week, Brull said, and she was assigned to a subgroup focusing on data and heart health. The subgroup is trying to aid the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Million Hearts campaign, which aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by encouraging people to control their blood pressure and cholesterol, take an aspirin if they are at risk of a heart attack, and quit smoking.

Though doctors can’t force patients to take care of their health, electronic records make it far easier to keep track of a person’s health needs and push appropriate treatment, Brull said. When she introduced electronic records into her own practice, she was surprised to discover that not nearly as many patients were getting recommended preventative care as she had expected.

“I thought I was a great doctor, and my numbers didn’t show that I was a great doctor,” she said.

For example, only 65 percent of her female patients who were of an age to need regular mammograms had had one recently, Brull said. The problem was that while she made sure patients made an appointment for a mammogram when they came in for a regular checkup, she couldn’t keep track of patients who didn’t come in.

Electronic records changed that, because the office could run queries to find out which patients were due for preventative care and contact them about making an appointment, Brull said.

They also could run a program that compares a patient’s health information to 109 quality standards, matching them by age, gender and other characteristics so she can focus on their individual needs during an appointment.

Though some doctors aren’t enthusiastic about electronic records, Brull is confident they will change their minds after learning how to use them.

“We instantly know if there are any of those 109 things that haven’t been met,” she said. “I don’t think a lot of doctors realize what it can do to make their lives easier.”

What isn’t clear is how the education process will happen, since the 28 medical professionals will have one year to work together, while still maintaining their own practices.

“We’re sort of building the airplane as we fly it,” she said.