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Overcomes Flooding to Complete Electronic Health Record Project

January 3, 2011

EHR System Reduces Costs, Increases Medical Accuracy and Improves Patient Care.

George C. Grape Community Hospital expects to qualify for several hundred thousand dollars in federal reimbursement for implementing and demonstrating meaningful use of a certified electronic health record (EHR). This reimbursement, hospital officials say, is to be used to cover up to 99-percent of the cost of licensing and implementing the EHR system. The reimbursement is part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which offers healthcare providers financial incentives for demonstrating meaningful use of an EHR system.

In the second half of 2010, George C. Grape Community Hospital began planning to demonstrate meaningful use of a certified EHR by the year 2014 or 2015. The hospital quickly accelerated the timeline when offered the opportunity to beta test Healthland Centriq®, a new EHR system specifically for small community hospitals. CEO Mike O'Neal proposed the project to the board of directors in September 2010. The extensive project that included installing high-speed fiber, new computer hardware, installing and testing new software, staff training and new audit processes kicked off in early 2011 with a goal of achieving meaningful use before the end of the year.

"Like most rural community hospitals, cost was a big consideration for us when considering electronic health records," said Craig Wells, IT director at George C. Grape Community Hospital. "By working with Healthland as a beta partner we got to have input into the features of the final product, and because Centriq® is certified for meaningful use we knew we could qualify for the federal funding to help cover costs. That was all the incentive we needed to take on an aggressive implementation schedule to get us to meaningful use in the first year of eligibility and help us quickly recoup the up-front costs of the project."

During the software installation phase of the project in May 2011, hospital workers pitched in with the rest of the community in an effort to hold back the Missouri River floodwaters. By early June 2011, washed out roads and highways had left the town virtually cut-off from surrounding communities. Thirteen employees living in the flood zone had to evacuate their homes. Staff members commuting from Nebraska saw their travel time to work increase from 20 minutes to two hours each way.

"While the floodwater didn't physically impact our building or the town of Hamburg, the stress of the disaster took a toll on everyone in the community," said Lynda Cruickshank, marketing and development director at George C. Grape Community Hospital. "Every able member of the hospital staff volunteered to help people evacuate, or sandbag homes, or prepare food for other volunteers. Many staff already volunteer year round with the fire department or on the county emergency response team or both, but this event became a summer-long commitment. It was very reassuring to see how this team performed under that kind of pressure. The flood response would have been exhausting on its own, but our staff did whatever was needed to keep the EHR project on schedule as well."

In July 2011, as floodwaters and road closings continued to cut off the town, the hospital mounted a major communications campaign to let people in surrounding communities know the hospital remained open and ready to serve their healthcare needs. This was also a key time for the software project as the hospital was going through a mandatory 90-day reporting period to prove that the staff was using the EHR system as required to qualify for reimbursements.

"Completing our reporting period and attesting to meaningful use was a huge milestone and I can't tell you how proud I am of what our team accomplished and overcame in the past year," said Mike O'Neal, CEO of George C. Grape Community Hospital. "This project has truly been a partnership between the hospital and Healthland, and shows what you can accomplish when you have a solid plan in place and people with the skills and motivation to make it happen. We look forward to the cost savings, increased medical record accuracy, and improved patient outcomes that the Healthland EHR will deliver for years to come."

"Helping our clients qualify for EHR Incentive Program funds is a top priority for us - from delivering certified EHR products to enabling them with program knowledge and best practices," said Tracey Schroeder, senior vice president of marketing and sales support at Healthland. "For many rural hospitals, those reimbursements are the only way they can acquire an EHR solution. When you consider everything George C. Grape Community Hospital had to overcome to keep their EHR project on track and moving forward, they are a great example to other hospitals of what you can achieve with dedication and persistence."

George C. Grape Community Hospital will celebrate the completion of its EHR project and successful attestation of meaningful use at a "Virtual Ribbon Cutting" ceremony on January 11, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. at the hospital cafeteria. Media members are invited to attend, and hospital officials will be available for interviews.

About George C. Grape Community Hospital
Founded in 1921, George C. Grape Community Hospital is a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital serving the towns of Hamburg, Imogene, Randolph, Sidney, Babor, Farragut, Thurman, Riverton, and Percival in southwestern Iowa. The current hospital facility was built in 1968 and is named after a community benefactor. George C. Grape Community Hospital provides a number of services, including a 24-hour emergency room, Life Flight emergency helicopter, walk-in Saturday morning clinic, physical and occupational therapies, cardiac rehabilitation, chemotherapy treatment, Home Health, and Public Health services. George C. Grape Community Hospital is proud to provide several visiting specialists representing cardiology, oncology, ENT, gastroenterology, OB/GYN, orthopedics, physical medicine, podiatry, pulmonary, surgery, and urology. For additional information, please visit www.grapehospital.com.

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At George C. Grape Community Hospital, we understand that healthcare is evolving. Advancements in medicine and strides in technology are providing local communities access to better healthcare. It is our desire to provide the best care in our region. Our staff will be here to help you and your loved ones when the need arises. The comfort and care of our patients is our major goal.

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