CAMBRIDGE -- The Southeastern Med looks forward to 2012 with great anticipation. As the hospital begins its journey into the new era of healthcare reform, it will focus on improving clinical quality, economic health and patient safety, as well as continue the growth of the services currently offered at the hospital.

As a leader in healthcare technology, the hospital made significant investments in 2011 in a new hospital information system, Meditech, to manage all of the hospital's medical and administrative needs.

By April 2012, Southeastern Med will invest $6 million in Meditech to convert its patients' records from paper to an electronic medical record system.

"Although it's an upfront expense, it's also one that is expected to decrease medication errors, reduce duplicate medical tests, improve patient quality and safety, and save the hospital, as well as patients, money in the long run," said Ray Chorey, president and CEO of Southeastern Med. "The implementation of the electronic medical record and sharing of real time results will help the hospital achieve its goals of providing better care and better health at reduced cost."

With a focus on quality and patient safety, the use of electronic medical records provides many benefits for Southeastern Med, physicians and patients. The new system will allow caregivers to obtain and update a patient's medical record in real time, as well as immediate access to laboratory and X-ray reports, and other test results at the patient's bedside. In many cases, this information can alter diagnosis and treatment decisions, as well as decrease the potential duplication of costly services. It will also promote medication safety by notifying the physician if a drug being prescribed will have an adverse effect based on the patient's other medications.

"Meditech serves as the foundation for the sharing of patient information electronically between the hospital, the physician office and eventually the patient themselves," Chorey said. "When physicians install an electronic medical health record that we can tap into, we will be able to see their personal files. Meditech will enable Superior Med physicians to see files in their offices and at the hospital. Other physicians with an electronic medical record system will be able to gain electronic access to test results at the hospital."

The new computer system will also allow healthcare providers at Southeastern Med to work more effectively by addressing the needs of each department in the hospital, which includes every area from the finance department to the laboratory and pharmacy, as well as the radiology and surgery departments.

"Healthcare organizations are challenged daily by the need to manage and integrate clinical, financial and operational information," Chorey said. "As this need grows and evolves, Southeastern Med requires a hospital information system that can keep pace."

Through the new system, each department will have the opportunity to create their own views, dashboards and workflows enabling quick access to specific information needed to provide the best possible patient care.

Southeastern Med began the implementation and associate training of the information system in May 2011 with plans to go live with the system in April 2012.

Beginning in 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin using value-based purchasing to determine the rate of Medicare reimbursement hospitals receive. Through value-based purchasing, a portion of hospital reimbursement payments will be based on how well they perform.

While Southeastern Med meets and often exceeds many of the national benchmarks for care, it will continue to focus on improving its current outcomes by addressing efficiency in the care provided with special emphasis on customer satisfaction. In 2012, the hospital will focus on always meeting each patient's need to understand their care plans, discharge instructions, tests and results, as well as the importance to communicate with their nurses and physicians.

CMS began monitoring the hospital's performance in July 2011 to generate its performance score. In 2013, if the hospital falls below that performance score, its Medicare reimbursement will decrease. If the score remains the same or improves, its reimbursement will increase.

"CMS will simply take money away from the hospitals with low scores and reward it to those with higher scores," Chorey said. "Providing outstanding patient care has always been our primary mission, and value-based purchasing will be a testament of our ongoing efforts to improve the quality of care we offer and provide an overall exceptional experience to every patient, every time."

As Southeastern Med prepares for new challenges in 2012, its dedicated Board of Directors, senior administration, physicians and staff are equally committed to making an important contribution to the health of the community as a whole. In 2012, the hospital will not only be seen as a place for the sick, but also as a center of wellness in the community.