Mercy Medical Center employees have been working for weeks on changing the hospital's records from written to electronic.
And now Mercy's parent company, Catholic Healthcare West, has pledged more than $1 billion to put all of its hospitals smack dab into the 21st century.
CHW made the decision after introducing medical records in eight of the system's 41 hospitals.
Dr. Brian Moore, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Merced, said using electronic medical records is the face of the future.
"It's been gradual in coming," Moore said. "When computers bloomed in the 1990s, it started."
Moore said when he was in medical school in the 1990s in Indiana, the county hospital already had an electronic records system in place.
"Then I came to California, and they were still catching up," Moore said.
Moore said electronic records make it easier on physicians in emergency rooms when a patient comes into the hospital. "The ER doctor can look up a patient's medications -- and that's a huge help when a patient can't talk."
Patient confidentiality is also important in the new filing system. Robert McLaughlin, spokesman for Mercy, said protection of patient privacy and the integrity of the medical record are crucial.
"CHW and Mercy have built a system to protect the network and privacy of our patients, including encryption of all hand-held units and we can trace any intrusion attempt on the data," McLaughlin said.
Ben Williams, senior vice president for CHW, said the ability to access patient information in a timely manner is important.
"To share information within the hospital and with primary care centers is paramount," Williams said.
The electronic system will also include new patient and safety systems, such as medication bar coding to match patients to their prescribed medications.
Moore said the electronic system works well on getting laboratory results back to a physician in a timely manner.
"If I order lab tests and can't get the results quickly, why order those tests?" Moore asked.
Although changing all records into electronic records will take a long-term effort, Moore said Mercy is well on its way.
"This allows efficiency, and the bottom line is that it improves patient care," Moore said.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.