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Via Christi says wait times for patients in emergency department are improving

By Kelsey Ryan

The Wichita Eagle

Via Christi officials say emergency department wait times are improving following the implementation of a new electronic health record system, which had resulted in longer waiting times for some patients.

The $85 million electronic health record system, implemented last week, is now in operation at five Wichita hospitals and 25 clinics in three counties. Eventually, it will be used at other Via Christi locations throughout the state.

Since the system launched June 1, Via Christi has seen more than 3,000 people in its emergency departments, said Melissa Evraets, assistant chief nursing officer for Via Christi hospitals in Wichita.

"It's kind of like having a baby," she said. "It's never the right time or exactly the perfect time (to start), but we would never be able to say to people 'Hold on, don't come here so we have a calm period to implement the EHR.' We were to committed to implementing it while still taking care of the community."

At Via Christi, typical peak times for the emergency departments are from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. each day, Evraets said.

Between July 2012 and June 2013, the average time patients spent in the emergency department at Via Christi St. Joseph and St. Francis before they were seen by a health care provider was 28 minutes, which was longer than the Kansas average of 18 minutes and the national average of 26 minutes, according to the most recent data from Medicare.

There were other factors besides the implementation of the new computer system that led to increased wait times last week, she said.

Abdul Bengali, Via Christi chief information officer, said that last Monday, the day after the system went live, there were more than 3,300 calls to the call center Via Christi set up to help health care providers with problems. More than 8,600 of Via Christi's employees were trained over several months to use the program before it was implemented.

By Monday of this week, the call center handled about 900 calls, he said.

The new system will also allow the hospitals to better track patient wait times, he said.

(c)2014 The Wichita Eagle