Via Christi rolls out new electronic records system

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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WICHITA, Kan. -- Via Christi Health has launched a new digital record keeping system that its leaders say could revolutionize care at their hospitals and clinics.

"We call this the beginning of a new era for Via Christi," Chief Information Officer Abdul Bengali said. "It now gives us a digital platform that will allow us to transform and to innovate."

The system, called OneChart, is now being utilized at five Wichita hospitals and 25 clinics in three counties. It was rolled out Sunday.

The idea is to consolidate the numerous record keeping systems Via Christi already uses into one digital system, Bengali said. Information including lab results, prescription order information, notes on prior doctor visits are now all in one place and at a physician's fingertips.

"So, whenever we have a patient seen through any of our doors, we can have visibility of what we are doing in terms of their healthcare," Bengali said.

During the past two months, more than 8,600 Via Christi employees trained on the system before its implementation. Bengali likened it to "OneChart University."

Even so, given the tremendous scope of the project, there have been some glitches, Bengali said.

Several patients have written to KAKE News to say they have faced significantly longer wait times, especially in the Emergency department.

"Any time you do something big like this, it comes with inconveniences to physicians and patients," Bengali said.

To help smooth the transition, Via Christi created a customer care center. Hundreds of people are working around the clock in 12-hour shifts to troubleshoot any issues that may arise, Bengali said.

Bengali says most of the issues have been relatively minor, such as problems with logging in. He says already they have been able to resolve many problems. On the first business day with the new system in place, the care center received 3,400 calls. On Wednesday, that number had dropped to 1,200, Bengali said.

"We are starting to see a steady decrease in the calls that are coming in and that tells us things are stabilizing," Bengali said. But there are still things we have to work on because people are learning new ways of doing things. To me, I think that is what the transformation is at Via Christi: finding newer ways of doing thing rather than keeping doing things the way we did."

Dr. Chris Faulk, an academic hospitalist who supervises medical residents, is one of the many physicians learning the new system.

"It can feel a little bit awkward like your right hand is missing and you are suddenly trying to take care of patients with your left hand," Dr. Faulk said.

But she says there are people available around the clock to troubleshoot problems.

She says the system has already provided a boost.

In the past, she said it almost felt like she and other staff members were involved in a daily "Easter egg hunt" for files.

"We were hunting for charts every day," Dr. Faulk said.

But she says with this new system, that's no longer the case.

"Everything is in one place and you know exactly where to get it," Dr. Faulk said. "You don't have to wait for a transcriptionist to type up someone's consult. Everything is right there, right now. It's been nice."

But hospital administrators say it's not just the physicians who will benefit. They say the patients will now have greater access to their records.

Over the weekend, Via Christi also launched a new patient portal where they can access their health records. It's called myViaChristi. Patients do have to sign up in person before receiving access to the site. As of Thursday, more than 300 patients were already utilizing the system, Bengali said.

"It empowers patients to help take care of themselves," Bengali said.

Bengali says while there are some growing pains now, the benefits of this system will be realized quickly.

"OneChart is not the end. We are very excited this will be a first step toward becoming a more highly-reliable organization," Bengali said.

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