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Health exec notes low-tech success at Cerner high-tech confab

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Cerner Corp., the high-tech company based in North Kansas City, Mo., may be at the forefront of the electronic health records industry, but at its annual health conference Monday, a behavioral health executive said innovations in health care don’t necessarily have to be as advanced as the solutions developed by Cerner.

Speaking on a panel that addressed coordinating care across multiple platforms, Karen Suddath of Wyandot Inc. said her organization had improved its coordination of care simply by checking a website every morning for booking records at the local jail.

Suddath is chief operating officer of Wyandot Inc., parent company of a community mental health center, and she said that matching its information with jail records keeps some of Wyandot’s patients from falling through the cracks if they happen to get arrested.

By adopting that simple expedient, the center ensures that, for instance, case managers show up at court proceedings to avert additional patient tangles with law enforcement.

“It is really coordinating care for when the person comes out,” she said in an interview after the panel discussion.

Cerner is hosting more than 11,000 health professionals from around the globe at its 29th annual health conference, which is running through Wednesday at Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City, Mo.

On the more high-tech side, Suddath said it had been a challenge to implement its system for sharing data among health providers.

“We are struggling with ours, I have to say,” she said. One challenge, she said, is getting doctors to run patients through the health information database to see if it has data like, say, a recent trip to an emergency room.

Suddath said it can be hard to convince busy physicians to take the time when hits in the health information record can be infrequent.

Nevertheless, she said, the agency did have a recent success story involving a frazzled 21-year-old woman who came to the agency’s crisis clinic.

By accessing the woman’s medical record from other providers, Suddath said, Wyandot discovered that she had been treated for a gunshot wound to the head, among several hospitalizations and emergency room visits she’d logged in previous weeks.

The information helped staff devise a solution aimed at keeping her out of crisis.

“The hospital just wasn’t working,” Suddath said.

Also on the panel was Mike Dittemore, executive director of the Lewis and Clark Information Exchange, a nonprofit that enables health information sharing among providers in the area.

Dittemore offered an example of how the exchange had helped a woman who had recently given birth and presented at a clinic. Referral to an acute care clinic revealed the woman was septic, Dittemore said, and when professionals referred her to a hospital, workers there had the woman’s records electronically.

“That is why I get up in the morning,” he said.

Mike Sherry is a health reporter with Heartland Health Monitor, a reporting collaboration among KCUR Public Radio, KCPT Public Television, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio. He is based at KCPT’s Hale Center for Journalism.

Major Funding for Health coverage on KCPT provided by Assurant Employee Benefits and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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