NASA Electronic Health Record System Rollout
This Case study was written for and published in NASA's The Research News under the title "Electronic Health System Rolls Out at Langley" by Denise Lineberry on June 17, 2011
Download a PDF copy here: Medgate NASA Case Study
NASA's Langley Research Center's medical clinic and industrial hygiene employees have been getting familiar with a new electronic system that tracks and manages occupational health requirements and identifies programs that could benefit the health of center employees.
On June 17, Langley became the second NASA center to roll out an Electronic Health Record System, supported by the Office of Chief Health and Medical Office at NASA Headquarters. This effort is in compliance with the requirements of the Office of National Coordinator within the Department of Human and Human Services to document all patient care electronically.
Solution and Rollout
Medgate, a global leader in occupational health and safety software, provided the software. Medgate software is in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and allows the center to cater to the safety and health needs of employees.
Plans to implement the software began several years ago. It seemed inevitable. "It's trending," said Azhar Rafiq, director of medical informatics within the Office of Chief Health and Medical Officer at NASA Headquarters. "And it helps us monitor how to better address issues that impact a specific workforce."
He is visiting all of the NASA centers during the rollout phase for the new program, which takes six to eight weeks at each location. The system is expected to be in use across the agency by the end of 2012.
"It is centrally procured and centrally managed," said Verba Moore, manager of the agency Occupational Health Support Office at Kennedy Space Center. "It's cost effective for the agency overall because centers will no longer need to maintain individual programs."
The first center to implement the electronic health record system was Stennis. According to Rafiq, since that rollout on February 4, more than 3,000 patient visits have been entered and the staff is 100 percent on-board.
Data Security Management
A point that all involved parties stressed was the amount of privacy and security used in dealing with patient information. "It is secure on various levels," said Bill Walters from Medgate. Beyond NASA’s own firewall, the software has functional security levels for each center and to each clinic employee, based on his or her occupation.
Information is only accessible by Langley’s occupational health professionals, for Langley’s employees. If an employee transfers to another center, records go along, maintaining a single-center access and making the transference of data convenient.
"Administrative staff can access schedules, physicians and physician assistants can access clinical information, and techs and nurses will access pieces of both," said Moore. "For example, because I am a physician, I'm allowed to write prescriptions where technicians cannot."
NASA also procured industrial hygiene capabilities. Industrial hygienists will be able to document equipment inventories, track industrial surveys and lab results and validate if employees are enrolled in the correct exposure groups for monitoring.
Medgate is proactive in that it tracks a worker’s compliance to meet statewide standards. As Kelly Cox, Langley’s clinic administrator explained, it gives notifications when employees need a certain test required of their job.
"We will also receive constant reports about programs that we could implement based on our workforce," said Cox. "There may be more attention to blood pressure, diabetes or stress," she said. Her tie-in at Langley's fitness center can provide solutions to employee health problems.
Certified medical professionals created Medgate. Walters is a registered nurse. And the agency partners helping with the rollout are also from the medical field. Monica Melkonian, a former NASA industrial hygienist, is the consultant assisting with training the industrial hygienists.
"We are really excited to get all of these folks together to work on this, and everyone is ready and stepping up where they can truly make a difference in providing accurate patient care," Rafiq said.
The Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Health modules of the program will be utilized at Langley. But as Moore explained, there are several other modules, allowing a potential for growth.
"Our goal is to have all centers working in synergy and to make the process more streamlined," Rafiq said.