Union Medical Center makes transition to MU

Rishi Sud, MD, medical director of Union Medical Center in Chicago, is proud to have recently achieved Meaningful Use (MU) of their electronic health records (EHR) system. The twist? Dr_Rishi_SudUnion Medical is not eligible for government incentive programs, but simply saw the value of MU.

“Meaningful Use is a tool that helps us better take care of our patients and utilize our resources the best way possible,” explains Dr. Sud.  Metrics and quality reporting were a big draw for working on MU, as was more efficient monitoring of patients with chronic diseases.

Achieving MU, however, took some time. It involved thoughtful planning that started with switching to a new EHR that allowed for MU reporting.  For help, Union Medical reached out to CHITREC in July 2011.  Dr. Sud says, “CHITREC was instrumental in the whole decision-making process.” Sixteen venders were reviewed and a CHITREC implementation manager, Sam Ross, walked Union Medical through the helpful Welch-Allyn EHR selection tool.

After many discussions with the final three vender choices, AllScripts was chosen as the best match for Union Medical’s needs.  All staff who use EHR were instrumental in this decision. “They had enough time to buy into the new system and to see the benefits to our patient population,” states Dr. Sud. Transitioning to AllScripts involved juggling a number of requirements, including interfacing with insurance software and the former EHR, reconfiguring workflows, customizing software to support 12 specialties, and training over 100 staff members.

Now, Union Medical providers all are using the new EHR. They have access to formularies inputted by staff and can communicate from one provider to another in the system. Dr. Sud says they can also evaluate how they are handling certain disease states (e.g., are diabetic patients visiting the podiatrist regularly?). Tracking immunization data is a plus, and ePrescribing helps everyone work more efficiently.

You may be wondering why Union Medical is not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid incentive programs. The organization operates within a unique system that was created as a result of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. The Act restricted the power and activities of labor unions, and precipitated a structure in which participating medical centers that serve union members and their families operate as self-ensured entities.  That is, companies employing union workers pay each month into a fund used for pensions, managed health care, and other services.  Union health care centers then have a finite amount of money to treat patients, all of whom receive care free of charge.

Operating similarly to accountable care organizations, Union Medical Center is one of only 12 in the country with this arrangement. Dr. Sud and his staff offer comprehensive health services, from primary care and obstetrics/gynecology to specialties such as podiatry and dentistry.  An on-site pharmacy is also available. The center has been meeting the health care needs of area food and commercial worker union members and their families for 50 years.

Dr. Sud is happy with the how the new EHR has integrated into Union Medical’s workflow, and he believes the new capabilities are ultimately improving patient care. Dr. Sud acknowledges the transition took a lot of effort, however. “CHITREC was very helpful for us,” says Dr. Sud. “Every practice is unique, and we are very unique,” he continues. “Instead of reinventing the wheel, they gave us insights from working with others, and that helped.”