Electronic medical records: It’s going to be Epic!

Jeff Scarafia of Epic, presenting June 5 to a group of county health leaders. His slide shows just a few of the medical centers using Epic.

Yesterday I got to learn a bit more about Epic, the system being implemented here at Valley Medical Center to catapult us into the 21st century!

That’s not even hyperbole: Epic is truly epic. Once it’s fully implemented, we’ll be part of a growing national network of medical systems using the same electronic medical record platform…and we’ll all benefit.

I’ll be able to make appointments or change them right from my computer at home or iPhone. Accessing lab results, re-ordering medications? All a snap. History of my constant, frustrating battle to lose weight? The info is at my fingertips.

But most importantly, if I’m visiting Epic’s HQ in Wisconsin, and I’m wandering through a field and get hit by a cow*, the local trauma center using Epic will have instant access to my medical history and know that I’m allergic to Bovinabutanol.**

This is technology that will truly save lives – maybe mine, maybe yours. And just another great innovative step being taken by our public hospital. Learn more at www.epicsystems.com

* This is unlikely to happen.

** I totally made up that medication.

Join VMC’s Rehab Research Center for the “Walk for Thought”

Jerry Wright, Clinical Research Manager of VMC's RRC, talks about Walk for Thought on KNTV

The Santa Clara County Walk for Thought benefits the Brain Injury Association of California…and they are a huge partner of VMC’s renowned Rehab Center.

No plans yet for Saturday? Come on out and join Jerry Wright, Stephanie Kolakowski – Hayner, and the rest of our Rehabilitation Research Center for this great day at Almaden Lake Park.

Click here for a great article in the Mercury News all about it, and better yet, click here to register!

Amazing device improves patient/doctor communication!

Most medical devices can't be found at REI. This one can.

Dr. Gary Lee is Valley Medical Center’s director of palliative care, and he’s using a new high-tech wonder in his daily communication with his patients.

Yes, I know it may not look that amazing. But consider: This portable, light-weight camping stool allows Gary to carry it wherever he goes, and when he’s ready to speak with a patient at the bedside, he unfolds it and sits at eye-level with the person in the bed.

Barbara Zahner, Chaplain here at VMC, puts it like this: “the presence of this simple, low cost piece of equipment changes the environment from clinical to remembrances of comforting campfires, cozy conversations, and the grandeur and spirit of nature and creation.”

Gary first read about this in the New England Journal of Medicine, and has found it a real game-changer: The national statistics are that a patient is interrupted by their doctor (at most) 18 seconds into being heard…and in Gary’s practice, that just won’t do.

You see, Gary’s work involves end-of-life discussions with patients and families, where listening is a critical part of delivering care. If done right, the alert reader of this blog will remember that palliative care can not only provide dignity, it can actually extend life.

A simple camping stool! How wonderful to slow that hurry-up dynamic between doctor and patient, letting both feel more present and “in the moment”. Anyone can do this, right Gary? “Well, it requires training”, he told me…and remember, VMC is the teaching hospital for Stanford: “We teach medical students that the most important part of the stethoscope is the six inches between the ear pieces. By the same token, the most important part of the camping stool is – well, you get the idea.”

We’ve all heard it before, and it’s so true: Before they care how much you know, they have to know how much you care.

The Verdict on Health Care Reform (the jury is still out)

It’s finally happened: I’m serving on a jury.

Disruptive? Sure – I’m a busy guy; most of us are. So I’ve quickly compiled a list of things that, as United States Citizens, we don’t have to do:

  1. Vote
  2. Join the Military (not now, anyway)
  3. Belong to a political party
  4. Pledge allegiance to the flag
  5. Worship one way or another
  6. Pay taxes (you can live in your buddy’s warehouse and eat burritos every day. Believe me – I know)
  7. Say only nice things about the government
  8. Limit the number of kids we have

I could make this list longer, but you get the point: About the only thing we MUST do, when called, is serve on a jury. That’s a pretty good deal, so as I try not to complain I also try not to be too angry with fellow prospective jurors who are obviously trying to get bounced.  After all, we’ve gotten used to a lot of free will in this great country.

And this may be why so many folks are still steamed up about Obama’s health care reforms. Some parts of them sound compulsory, like everyone paying into an insurance product of some kind…a lot of people heard that and freaked out, because it sounded MANDATORY. Americans don’t like mandatory.

But after reading today’s LA Times Op-Ed piece, it became clear about what also is mandatory: Cancer. If you have it, you can’t opt out. You can’t say “As an American, I choose not to have this disease.” As the author found out, sometimes your choices are terrifyingly limited…and that’s when options on health coverage and treatment start to sound a lot less political and a lot more life-saving.

The author apologizes to the President, which of course she didn’t have to do. If you have an opinion, feel free to share it. Or not; it’s a free country. I’ll reply, once I catch up after my service.

Join me for a good laugh for a good cause…

Nobody enjoys a good laugh more than I do…but sometimes when I attempt humor, friends tell me I should leave the comedy to the professionals.

Okay, fine.

We’ve hired comedy star Dat Phan, who won NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” competition, has appeared on Leno and “Family Guy”, and who also cares about our community. That’s why he’s agreed to headline our fund-raising evening on Tuesday, February 1, at the San Jose Improv.

The night will benefit the Ira Greene PACE Clinic, which is Valley Medical Center’s HIV/AIDS treatment and education clinic. They provide state of the art and compassionate care, and deserve our support…and what better way to help than enjoying a fun evening out in downtown San Jose!

Tickets are only $45, and can be found here. I’ll be there, and I hope you will be too.

Bionic legs help patients walk again!

At the VMC Foundation, 2011 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting years ever. One reason is eLegs: A new technology that literally could replace the wheelchair for millions living with paraplegia.

Yes – think of it.
As profiled in TIME Magazine a week ago, this new invention by Berkeley Bionics promises a new reality for people with spinal cord injuries, stroke, MS, or any condition that has them unable to use their legs. This amazing “exoskeleton” fits over the user’s legs, they stand up, and they walk.
But here’s what TIME didn’t specify: There is only ONE rehabilitation center in the country that will be the first to test eLegs. You guessed it: Valley Medical Center.
This fact recently captured the attention of TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, one of the nation’s most respected tech gurus. He then blogged about it, we set up a Facebook Cause, and with his encouragement, the donations are coming in to support this vital program.
Please join us, and if you’re looking to be a part of history, please consider donating today…years from now, we all may look back and say “I helped change the future.”

From coma to community…

The avid reader of this blog knows that Valley Medical Center contains the most awesomest* brain injury rehabilitation center on this planet and many others. You now have a chance to learn why…and learn so much more.

The VMC Foundation is proud to help present the 2011 Santa Clara Valley Brain Injury Conference on Feb. 24-26. Led by VMC’s fabulous Rehab Research Center Team…and you might think this is just for clinical people with long titles after their names. Well, yes and no.
Lots of cutting edge medicine will be discussed, but we’ll also hear from Tricia Meili, known nationally as “The Central Park Jogger” who was beaten and left for dead in 1989. Her story of survival is about more than recovery, and will inspire any and all conference attendees.
Plus, we’re holding this event at the Dolce Hayes Mansion, a beautiful conference center – read more about this amazing three-day event that will educate and amaze. Please share this information with anyone you think would be interested – and that’s likely a long list.
*I read this word last night in TIME Magazine. If they can use it, so can I.

…and THIS is what collaboration looks like!

It’s ground-breaking – as in, it’s never happned before, and it’s happening here in Silicon Valley. Funny…that happens a lot here.

But usually that means it’s happening in the tech sector. Probably by Apple. What if it happened for the benefit of the poorest segment of our population who rely on Second Harvest Food Bank to feed their families, and on Valley Medical Center to keep them healthy?

See where this is going? Click here – you’ll be inspired I promise. A Huge thanks to Pat Morino at Citizen Blog for the publicity!

VMC Foundation: Jobs, health, and Silicon Valley

Next Friday, please consider attending a breakfast forum I’m helping present…and I promise you’ll be glad you did, because it’s important and engaging.

I’m in this year’s class of American Leadership Forum, and our event Friday March 12 is called “A New Recipe for Job Growth.” What it WON’T be is a typical “panel discussion with Q&A.” Rather, you will be a participant in this uncommon conversation aimed at solving what many feel is our #1 problem: Jobs.

How does the VMC Foundation fit in? That’s easy: Your public hospital’s patient population is soaring as unprecedented numbers of people have lost their jobs/ health coverage and are turning to VMC. The stress is at an all-time high, and we’ve got to do something. Several things, actually.

Silicon Valley’s unemployment rate is WAY higher than the national average. Add to that Colorado’s Governor declaring “Colorado Loves California” Day last month, trying to lure companies away from here to relocate there. Yikes.

We’ve assembled a top group of leaders to participate in this critical discussion. Please be one of them, and register by clicking here.


A New Recipe for Regional Job Growth – a Conversation for Change
Friday, March 12, 7:30 am – 10:30am
Computer History Museum
1401 North Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA
$25 general, $15 seniors/nonprofits, free for students

Hope to see you there!

A hospital is no place for sick people.

As I’m sure you know – or can easily understand – hospitals work really hard to prevent infections in patients…but the truth is, infections of all kinds happen, and in hospitals it’s a major concern.

That’s why Valley Medical Center is very proud of its record in preventing them, as described in today’s release by Consumer Reports. CR is all no-nonsense, so you know their putting us in the top tier really means something.

Ironically, as VMC works to increase our use of technology, it’s a low-tech solution that works to prevent some infections. Just goes to show you – or remind you – it’s really all about the dedication of the team, isn’t it?

Below is a portion of their report, with additional info available here. See the fourth paragraph, where they refer to VMC as an “urban giant”. Is that like the green guy on the broccoli package?

Consumer Reports Health: Many Hospitals Fail To Lower Infection Risk Despite Lifesaving ChecklistNew online ratings provide patients with easy access to hospital infection rates, a first for consumers

YONKERS, N.Y., Feb. 2 — Far too many hospitals expose patients to deadly central-line bloodstream infections despite the availability of a simple life-saving checklist proven to prevent hospital acquired infections, says a new investigative article in the March issue of Consumer Reports.

The report coincides with the addition of infection rates to Consumer Reports’ in-depth hospital ratings available online at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org.

A First for Consumers; For Too Long “in the dark”

“For far too long, consumers have been in the dark, with no easy way to find out how well their hospitals perform when it comes to these often deadly infections,” said John Santa, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. Consumer Reports collected and compared data for ICUs in 926 hospitals, finding tremendous variations within the same cities and even within the same health-care systems. Bloodstream infections cause at least 30 percent of the estimated 99,000 annual hospital-infection-related deaths in the U.S. and add on average $42,000 to the hospital bills of each ICU patient who gets a central-line infection.

Poorly performing hospitals include several major teaching institutions in major metropolitan areas. Some examples include New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City, the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Strong Memorial in Rochester, New York, Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton, New Jersey, and the Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center in California.

Meanwhile, determined reformers across the country have shown that hospitals can cut their infection rate to zero or close to it by following a low-tech program that includes a simple checklist. Those hospitals range from modest rural hospitals to urban giants such as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian, St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, Harris Methodist in Houston, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, and seven Kaiser hospitals in California. The full list of 105 U.S. hospitals that have tallied zero central-line infections in their most recent reports can be found at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org.