AHRQ Resources Improve Care Quality and Safety at Tennessee Hospital

Health IT
August 2009

As a result of an AHRQ-funded contract to MidSouth eHealth Alliance (MSeHA), Methodist Healthcare Hospital in Tennessee has been able to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care in the Memphis area.

MSeHA is a nonprofit, community-wide information system providing an electronic exchange of information among nine hospitals, 15 ambulatory clinics, and the University of Tennessee Medical Group. A total of 321 clinicians have used the system in five emergency departments since its initial deployment in 2004.

Chris Sands, MD, an internist and hospitalist at the Methodist Healthcare Hospital in Memphis, was an early adopter of the exchange and has been using it successfully since 2007. Sands appreciates several aspects of the exchange, including how quickly data is entered into the system.

"It's done almost in real time," says Sands. "I can see when patients last went to their doctor, and when they had blood drawn. The system has both inpatient and outpatient records; thus, I can see how compliant the patients are."

MSeHA shares information about a patient's medical condition only with health care providers currently involved in that patient's care. The system permits providers to review medical information faster than by individually contacting a patient's other providers. It also allows for the quick assessment of discharged patients seen in safety net clinics. Fewer repeat tests and less waiting time are also added benefits.

Use of the exchange saves lives and prevents adverse medical consequences. Sands relates his experience: "A number of times, we've had a patient at Methodist Hospital who is nonverbal, and we know nothing about the person. Because we're able to pull up a discharge summary from another facility, we find allergies that we would not have known about. The patient may not have been wearing a medic alert bracelet, had no family present, and was allergic to penicillin."

Providers can make better choices about a patient's care and treatment when they have as much information as possible about that patient's health from lab tests, medical history, medicines, and other reports.

"I'm an internist," explains Sands, "so I care a lot about what has already been done, what we know about the patient, what studies have been done, and what has been ruled in or out to help me diagnose. The more information I have, the better I can take care of people. This gives me records instantaneously that previously would have taken days to obtain."

As for the future of the exchange, Sands hopes to see it expand to cover more than its current geographical region. He says, "It's really just for West Tennessee currently. My hope is that in time it will cover a larger part of the area."

Impact Case Study Identifier: 
AHRQ Product(s): Regional Health Information Organization
Topics(s): Quality, Emergency Preparedness
Geographic Location: Tennessee
Implementer: Methodist Healthcare Hospital
Date: 08/01/2009
Page last reviewed October 2014