At Lake Region, nurses carry the meaningful use message

'They help us bridge gaps between the clinical care world and what we do in our department'
By Jack McCarthy
10:59 PM
Lake Region Healthcare

Hospital IT staffs, whatever their size, are hard-pressed to keep up with the demands of day-to-day responsibilities while pushing ahead to institute government mandates to facilitate the use of electronic health records and other requirements.

At Lake Region Healthcare, in Fergus Falls, Minn., the department is finding success with the help of several nurses acting as IT staff clinical analysts.

Wade Jyrkas, director of computer information systems at LRH, said the five nurses bring the number of IT staffers to 15 and provide informed outreach to the rest of the hospital that immeasurably helps its program development.

"They help us bridge gaps between the clinical care world and what we do in our department," Jyrkas said. "They round every day and meet with physicians and nurses and ensure everything is going OK and bring back vital information. They build care plans, templates for documentation, and take care of physician training."

This type of interactive communications is essential for the hospital as it continues to modernize systems. "Everything is about relationships," Jyrkas said. "We talk to a lot of people so they remember us when it comes to a new initiative and know we are there to help make them successful."

With meaningful use requirements, the staff is driven by new demands, he said: "You try to do all you can to create an efficient process. We were early adopters of meaningful use, but as a small hospital we had to find a way to make it work with limited staff and a limited budget. So having clinical analysts in our department has been a huge benefit."

Lake Region has progressed to Stage 2, Year 2 of meaningful use, with the IT staff already working on recently released new rules for 2015.

"Like everybody else we are scrambling to understand them and make sure we are in a position to achieve what we've planned," said Jyrkas, who says he wants to use the programs developed in keeping with the meaningful use guidelines to improve patient engagement, for example, with a patient portal his staff supports.

"Now that we have the portal," he said, "we want facilitate conversations with our patients and create stronger relationships with them."

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