AK Community Hospital Taps Cerner EHR for Patient Experience

Petersburg Medical Center has leveraged a new EHR platform from health IT vendor Cerner that officials say will improve the patient experience.

A community hospital in Alaska has implemented a new Cerner EHR system that is expected to improve clinical communication and the patient experience

Petersburg Medical Center’s (PMC) board awarded the bid to Cerner for 1.3 million dollars a year ago. The community hospital leveraged CARES Act funding for the purchase.

PMC implemented Cerner CommunityWorks EHR, the vendor’s cloud-based EHR platform.

The cloud-based deployment model aims to enable users to securely share the clinical and financial data of patients. CommunityWorks scales Cerner Millennium EHR and is designed to meet the unique set of challenges to patients and healthcare teams at rural hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAH).

Jill Dormer, the organization’s chief information officer, said PMC officials have been working on the implementation since January.

“They’re one of the top two EHR companies in the nation, so we feel very fortunate and also excited that we’re able to bring that in and help to level up our infrastructure for technology in the building,” Dormer said in a public statement.

She noted that PMC’s legacy EHR system made clinical communication between departments difficult .

“Within our current system, there’s a lot of limitations to integration,” she explained. “We were just limited in the ways that we wanted to grow. As we started looking at increasing our infrastructure and efficiencies, we selected this vendor who has come very highly recommended. They’re quite a few other small hospitals in Alaska using Cerner as well as in the nation.”

Dormer said that the EHR implementation should help boost the patient experience by supporting access to personal health information and communication with clinical staff through the patient portal. Patients will also be able to request appointments and pay bills through the patient portal.

Phil Hofstetter, PMC’s CEO, echoed Dormer’s thoughts on how the health IT is expected to improve patient satisfaction. 

“Ultimately, the patient care experience with this is going to take us to the next level with the patient portal opportunity, the telehealth capabilities, and the connectivity between other facilities,” Hofstetter said.

Hofstetter added that after the healthcare organization announced a breach of patient records in March, data security proved another key motivation for going with a new EHR vendor.

He emphasized that while changing EHR platforms in the middle of COVID-19 has been a difficult challenge, the pandemic has also highlighted the need for improvements to interoperability for care coordination.

PMC started using the new EHR system on December 6.

Patient appointments are expected to take a little longer than normal in the first week as staff gets accustomed to the new health IT, PMC officials noted. Patients will also have to reestablish a new patient portal account. Patients will receive an email to establish a new patient portal account after their next visit.

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