At an elevation of over 6,000 feet above sea level, Pikes Peak Nephrology Associates (PPNA) is the oldest and largest nephrology practice in Southern Colorado.
Software Applications Specialist
Pikes Peak Nephrology
With a medical staff of eight PPNA specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases, high blood pressure, anemia, as well as the preparation for and treatment of patients with kidney transplants.
If you're surprised at the elevation at which the practice operates, rest assured it turns out to be an advantage for patients on dialysis. In fact, a February 2009 study, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that people on dialysis have a lower death rate the higher in elevation they live. According to the study, people above 6,000 feet fared best, with a 15 percent lower death rate than those at or near sea level.
HIE at Work
Yet, in addition to the benefits of higher elevation, excellent patient care at PPNA has a lot to do with the dedication, experience and commitment of the medical – and IT staff. IT staff? Yes, IT staff. And, at PPNA, being on the leading edge of technology implementation and use is a critical factor in treating both their clinic and dialysis patients.
In 2006, PPNA signed up with MobileMD to receive information from Colorado-based, Centura Health’s health information exchange (HIE). One of approximately 340 physicians connected to Centura, PPNA was an early adopter, wanting to simplify and streamline data exchange.
"From the very beginning, we wanted to establish as many electronic interfaces as possible as this will result in better patient care," says Sandy Drachenberg, Software Applications Specialist at Pikes Peak Nephrology.
With their own EMR at the ready, PPNA began to quickly set up a series of interfaces with labs in the surrounding area, to get real-time, critical results on kidney function tests, such as serum creatinine, hematocrit, potassium, calcium, and so on. At the same time, PPNA customized their interface to Centura with the help of MobileMD.
"What's great about the MobileMD service is that we can select and choose what data we want coming into our system, rather than getting it all," points out Ms. Drachenberg.
"For example, we don’t want inpatient lab results or studies unrelated to renal care, but we do want discharge summaries and consultations done on our patients. With MobileMD we can completely customize what comes into our EMR over the interface."
Real Time, Actionable Data
Once the interface was established, Centura data began to flow into PPNA’s EMR on a daily basis.
"With MobileMD’s real-time, flexible communication features, I know that each morning when I run the interface, critical patient health information will be automatically transferred into our EMR based on cross-referenced key data elements. Now our physicians have real-time, actionable data," says Ms. Drachenberg.
For physicians, these results not only load into the EMR and are available to the entire clinical team; they also populate the providers’ EMR review bins. Once the providers sign results, they appear in their final format within the appropriate area of the EMR.
PPNA physicians can access and review patient records remotely, which saves time and improves physician efficiency when admitting a patient to the hospital. A patient’s current history, medication list, lab studies, and recent problems are readily available. Having access to critical information within the EMR whenever it is needed ultimately leads to better patient care. Better patient care is at the heart of PPNA’s drive to stay on the leading edge of healthcare technology.
"Our physicians depend on getting timely and accurate results, prior to the patient’s appointment. Our goal is to make certain that the physician has all the information needed to provide quality patient care," stresses Ms. Drachenberg.
PPNA physicians can now pull lab data from the EMR for graphing and trending. Ms Drachenberg explains that, "They can select four lab values, for example, and create a graph that shows the health of one’s kidney function. It’s all there, in a very interactive, visible way for the patient to understand where things stand and where things are headed."
PPNA is now positioning to demonstrate "Meaningful Use" of their EMR. "This surely will help us demonstrate how our use of health IT investments improve healthcare quality," adds Ms. Drachenberg.
For someone who has to deal with IT worries on a daily basis, Ms. Drachenberg is thankful for MobileMD's responsiveness and professionalism, "once the system was up and running, things run so smoothly now, I rarely have a problem. And, when I do, MobileMD investigates the problem and resolves it quickly."
What's next for PPNA's technology team? "There's lots of continuing changes on the healthcare IT horizon, which will keep us on our toes. PPNA willingly uses these new technologies to constantly improve patient care and allow our physicians to be more efficient."
And at 6,000+ feet, PPNA is certainly used to working not only at the edge, but also at the top.
Sandra Drachenberg, CMA, is a team member of Pikes Peak Nephrology Associates PC. In her role as Software Support Specialist, Sandy actively supports the practice’s use of its electronic medical record. Her role encompasses oversight of the practice’s multiple laboratory interfaces. Sandy is a Certified Medical Assistant through AAMA, and an active member of the Colorado Chapter of HIMSS.