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Sky Lakes More changes on the way

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Sky Lakes: More changes on the way

Hospital news | Saturday, March 14, 2015

Contact: Thomas Hottman

Sky Lakes Medical Center made several changes in 2014 to make patients' lives easier, and more are on the way.

According to Tom Hottman, public information officer for the Klamath Falls hospital, some of the big changes have taken place right up front in the lobby.

Last year, the patient registration area was moved from the back of the lobby to the immediate right of the entrance. A series of rooms were partitioned out so patients could discuss their conditions and medical histories in private.

In addition to a more accessible registration process, leaving the hospital with one's prescriptions has never been easier. A in-house, retail pharmacy was opened last August across from registration.

"We know if there are any barriers … people are less likely to take their medications and they're supposed to. Now you can get your prescriptions before you leave the building, on the way to the car," Hottman said. He did not have exact numbers on the number of clients served since the pharmacy opened, but Hottman said the number can be climbing steadily, with increases practically every day.

"That tells me that was something that was needed, and we were able to fill that need," he noted. The pharmacy is fully stocked with the medications one might find in the typical retail outlet, but if more specialized drugs are needed for a patient Hottman said "I know they can put the order in and it will be here the next day."

New records system

One the big changes planned at Sky Lakes this year will not be as visible to patients as a new pharmacy, but it should have a profound impact on their care.

Hottman said the Epic electronic records system is going to be rolled in several clinics this spring and summer. By the end of the summer, the main hospital should be using the system as well.

Epic creates a single, permanent record per patient that can be transferred to other hospitals and care providers. Hottman said many Oregon hospitals use the system, including the hospitals affiliated with the Oregon Health and Science University.

"If I see a physician here, and I have the misfortune of having an auto accident in Medford and a physician there is going to treat me, that physicians would be able to instantly see what kind of things I have going on over here," Hottman said of the flow of information the Epic system allows for.

He added that privacy concerns should not come into play as the records are protected materials.

"It's the patient's record, and there are many protections to make sure that only those who need to see, or have the patient's permission to see it, are able to see it."

The system is being rolled out slowly throughout the medical center as it will take some time for physicians and other users to adjust. Hottman compared learning Epic to learning how to drive a new car – all the parts are essential the same, but some fine-tuning does need to take place.

Some appointments might take a little longer than usual when the system is online. Hottman said much of the older clinical information (he said patients histories be inputted back to a certain point in time) will have to be double-checked.

"It's part of the growing pains. We don't want to assume anything, we want to verify and make sure we're accurate and up-to-date," he said.

New equipment

A new MRI machine was added to the hospital's diagnostic imaging department last year, but getting it in place took a bit of extra work.

Rick McGuffey, director of facilities management at Sky Lakes, said the old MRI was installed before the hospital's lobby expanded. The old machine could fit through the front doors, but that was not the case with the new Toshiba-manufactured device.

McGuffey's crews had to install a roof hatch off the doctor's parking lot a year before the MRI arrived and installation started last May. The floor and walls the old machine was housed in had to be modified as well. The roof hatch can be opened so a crane can pick up or drop in heavy machinery.

"There's more involved than just that, but it makes it much easier and now that it's there, it's more cost effective to replace any of the larger equipment," McGuffey said. "We have access now now to do that." The new MRI machine is larger and less claustrophobic for patients to be stuck in, according to Hottman. He said it can perform more tests and is more precise.

Off-site expansions

In Medical Office Building 1, a new outpatient rehabilitation clinic has been set up. While the staff and equipment might be much the same as an older location, the layout has been optimized.

"The staff really like it, they had a lot of input in the design and how they wanted things laid out," McGuffey said.

One of the biggest additions to the rehab clinic is a gym with a view of Mt. Shasta. The clinic's proximity to other services in the building allows patients to coordinate their rehab sessions with doctor's visits or other appointments.

The new location of the Sky Lakes Wellness Center should be opening for business later this month. The center, which as moved from a Washburn Way annex to downtown Klamath Falls, will be initially providing nutrition and lifestyle guidance to Sky Lakes employees.

Hottman said the services will be opened up the public once the kinks are worked out, but the initial base is meant to be small and manageable.

McGuffey said the Wellness Center is in an old print shop his crews retrofitted to include a teaching kitchen, a meeting room and perhaps a small gym/workout area in the future.

Upcoming changes and improvements away from Sky Lakes' primary location include relocating the Heath Navigation Team to a new campus on South Sixth Street.

The team helps patients with non-emergency transportation and other services.