Health Center News

TX: EHR Helps Health Center Expand

By: Beau Boughamer

AAFP News Now mentioned Heart of Texas Community Health Center in a piece featuring four different family physicians who said that “their practices and their patients are reaping the rewards of EHR technology.”

(Back in September, NACHC issued a press release noting Heart of Texas’ Davies Award, mentioned below.)

According to AAFP President-elect Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A., of Waco, Texas, his organization was a technology pioneer when it implemented an EHR system back in 1997.

As CEO of the Heart of Texas Community Health Center, Goertz said he could not imagine where the organization would be today were it not for that technological jump.

“Thirteen years later, I look back and it’s amazing how things have evolved,” said Goertz. “We certainly couldn’t have grown and expanded to meet the needs of the vulnerable population we serve without our EHR.”

In fact, Heart of Texas has tripled the number of patients it serves, expanded from a single location to 10 sites and improved multiple quality indicators for patients since it implemented its EHR in 1997.

Goertz said he could show beyond any doubt that the facilities under his purview — all linked via health IT — have improved the health care they deliver to patients.

He pointed to improvements in three clinical areas that, in time, made believers of even the most technology-reluctant physicians and support staff. For example, just 36 months after the system began tracking every patient with diabetes within the organization via the EHR, hemoglobin A1c readings for 1,400 patients went down by two points, from nine to seven.

“We essentially had a group (of patients) that was out of control and brought them virtually to control just on the basis of the EHR and the team approach to that disease,” said Goertz.

Technology also gets the credit for a dramatic increase in immunization rates for children between the ages of 12 months and 6 years.

The EHR also proved invaluable when the FDA recalled a widely used diabetic medication a couple of years ago. “We used the EHR system to notify every patient on that medication,” said Goertz.

The health center’s efforts paid off recently when it won the 2009 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s Davies Award of Excellence in recognition of it[s] use of health IT.