York health bureau grant to cut paper medical records

YORK, Pa. -- Officials at the York City Bureau of Health hope a $95,000 grant will bring it into the digital age.

Many organizations have already gone paperless, but the health bureau isn't one of them.

Patient record keeping and the ability to pull information from documents can affect how the Bureau of Health addresses the health needs of the city.

Getting that information on the fly could help the bureau to improve service to clients along with the services it provides.

Behind the scenes of the York City Bureau of Health, it takes more than a few keystrokes to pull up a patient file.

York City medical director Dr. Matthew Howie said "we're still in the paper system right now. That's our situation. That wasn't unusual, historically, to say this is our old paper-based system, this is how we do it, but the world has kind of moved past us in terms of the electronic health record in medicine."

In the digital age, using paper doesn't cut it when it comes to quickly finding answers about the state of the community's health.

York City mayor Kim Bracey said "what's the numbers, what are we doing, where are we at with things, so to be able to have that information right at our fingertips will bode great work for all of us in being able to help us move forward."

The $95,000 grant from the Highmark Foundation will help bring new computer technology to the bureau to consolidate records.

Highmark community affairs manager Jane Brooks said "we work to raise awareness of important health issues, that stimulate long-term systemic change and one of the ways that we do that is by awarding high-impact grants."

A new computer system will not only collect data on health trends in the city's population, but help patients stay healthy as well.

"They don't quite recall when that last vaccine was, and they're not going to quite recall when the last time they were here, in terms of that evaluation for latent tuberculosis infection, and did I complete it, and what were the dates of that. They're not going to be able to necessarily provide that information," Dr. Howie said.

The community health resource does more than collect data.

York City Bureau of Health director Barbara Kovacs said "tuberculosis screening and treatment, HIV and STD screening and education, maternal and child health services, and our communicable disease investigations."

"There are quite a few people actively working to achieve the goals, that we have. This is just going to be a better tool for us to do that," Dr. Howie said.

Officials haven't decided which software to use yet, but they hope it will help streamline the process of consolidating health records as well as interact with the state computer system.