No more clipboards and paper forms.

The attached St. Mary’s Janesville Hospital will be nearly paperless.

At Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center across town, staff is more than six months into an electronic records system that allows seamless access to clinic and hospital records.

Electronic medical records have changed life in clinics and hospitals, and local providers are increasingly connected to share a patient’s medical history.

All three provider systems use the Verona-based Epic health care software system, which allows records to easily be shared.

Local providers answered questions about how electronic records work:

“It’s definitely been part of what we’ve considered as we’re redesigning the patient care spaces,” said Ruth Yarbrough, Mercy vice president.

At Dean Clinic-Janesville East, patients can check themselves in using a dozen touch screens and entering a credit card, which reads their demographic information.

Patients then are asked additional questions to verify their identity, said Annette Fox, director of clinical systems for Wisconsin Integrated Information Technology & Telemedicine Systems, a partnership between Dean and SSM Wisconsin.

Nurses, lab technicians and other St. Mary’s staff will carry special cell phones in the hospital that include an Epic messaging system.

“We don’t want to have the patient have one record in the clinic and another one in the hospital,” she said.

The same is true for other Dean and St. Mary’s locations and affiliated hospitals such as Baraboo or Madison, she said.

“If you end up at any of those places, your information is there,” she said.

If a patient shows up for the first time at St. Mary’s emergency room, staff will be able to electronically access the patient’s Mercy records with the patient’s consent, Fox said.

The records are managed through secure access, and the patient has to be physically in the facility for a doctor to get records from a different provider, Fox said.

“It’s not like I could just go out and look for any record I want,” she said.

St. Mary’s in Madison collaborated with other Madison hospitals and providers in March 2010 to begin electronically sharing records.

“It’s been amazing,” Fox said. “One, just the quickness.”

What took hours before now can be done in minutes, allowing care to start faster, she said.

Providers also found tests that didn’t need to be ordered because they saw in the patients’ records that the tests had been done elsewhere, she said.

Patients in the Dean/St. Mary’s system will have access to both their clinic and hospital records on their MyChart, Fox said. The software doesn’t have a lot of hospital features, yet, but it will include emergency room discharge instructions and lab test results, she said.

When a patient shows up for an appointment, the doctor already has information such as allergies and medications in the Epic system, Fox said.

More documentation tools are available for doctors, who can then use the aggregated data to engage patients more, she said.

A doctor treating a patient for high blood pressure could, for example, turn the computer screen to the patient to discuss a graphic that shows how the treatment is working, she said.

“It’s a great learning tool for the patient,” she said.

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