Navigating the system through patients’ eyes

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Jul 162015

Paige Driver

Paige Driver

AMA Wire Spotlight on Innovation post by Paige Driver, a second-year medical student at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

At 6 a.m. on a Friday, most medical students are donning their white coats and heading to the hospital or a medical office practice to learn how to navigate the health care system through the eyes of physicians. However, the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University had a different idea for their first group of student leaders in a new program—to try navigating the system through the eyes of patients.

Five students from the Brody School of Medicine’s inaugural cohort of Leaders in INovative Care (LINC) Scholars program (including me) spent a day this summer shadowing patients’ entire experiences in a variety of health care settings to observe them navigating the very complex system of Vidant Medical Center and the school’s outpatient clinics.

I shadowed a patient in pediatric outpatient surgery, from parking the car to driving away, and I believe the exercise was integral to learning about patient-centered care and patient safety.

Most medical students have had the good fortune of never having been the patient, so we can’t expect to understand that experience. We will never truly achieve patient-centered care without putting ourselves in the shoes of a patient and family and getting lost in the system with them a time or two.

We used a module from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, “A Guide to Shadowing: Seeing Care Through the Eyes of Patients and Families,” to guide our experience. We presented our findings from these experiences, including recommendations for improving the care experience, at a session that included patient advisors from Vidant Medical Center who provided additional patient perspectives on navigating health care settings.

“The future success of health care improvement for all is tied to every participant’s understanding of just how much trust and mutual engagement plays a role in patient healing,” said Henry Skinner, a retired businessman and active patient advisor with the school. “Thanks for allowing us to participate and observe the awakening of five bright new minds to the world of participative care.”

The first LINC Scholars cohort is taking a summer immersion course that provides a deep dive into the principles of patient safety, quality improvement, population health and team-based care. At the end of our fourth year of medical school, we’ll take the National Association for Healthcare quality’s Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality exam and will graduate with a distinction in health care transformation and leadership.

The LINC Scholars program is part of East Carolina University’s REACH initiative.

Published courtesy of AMA Wire


ECU Physicians recognized for exceptional use of digital records

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Jul 012015
ECU Physicians’ online patient portal, MyChart, allows individuals like ECU student Summer Tillman, pictured above using the MyChart web site, to access their health care team electronically.

ECU Physicians’ online patient portal, MyChart, allows individuals like ECU student Summer Tillman, pictured above using the MyChart web site, to access their health care team electronically.

The clinical practice of the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has been recognized for significantly improving patient care through the use of their electronic medical record system.

ECU Physicians was recently awarded nearly $2.2 million by the federal government for demonstrating “meaningful use” of their EMR system during 2014. This designation means that every eligible ECU health care provider exceeded dozens of specific quality measures set forth by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency that governs the use of digital health records in the U.S.

“This demonstrates that we’re using our EMR to its fullest potential to achieve greater transparency with the patient,” said Dr. Tommy Ellis, chief medical informatics officer for ECU Physicians.

“It means we’re communicating better, which leads to better data collection, which ultimately leads to better health outcomes,” Ellis said. “The only way we’re going to improve the health status of the citizens of eastern North Carolina is to improve how we collect health data from individual patients.”

Ellis said the $2.2 million award will be used to offset the cost of EMR implementation throughout ECU Physicians. This payment brings the total amount of federal stimulus payments earned by ECU Physicians to just over $8.6 million since the Electronic Health Records Incentive Programs were launched by the U.S. government in 2011. The goal of these programs is to encourage medical practices and hospitals serving Medicare and Medicaid patients to convert from paper charts to digital records.

“What we’re hearing from our colleagues elsewhere is that we’re the only organization in North Carolina to achieve this level of success with our electronic medical records system,” Ellis said. “Despite the initial headaches involved with implementing an EMR, our people stepped up to the task and have made it second-nature.”

He said the effective use of electronic medical records immediately improves the quality and safety of patient care. It empowers patients and their family members to take an active role in managing their own health because they have easy access to real-time information including lab results and treatment plans.

It also increases efficiency, Ellis said. When a patient’s data can be shared accurately and quickly between doctors and hospitals, it eliminates unnecessary duplication of tests and procedures, helps providers diagnose problems earlier and improves the coordination of care.

The ultimate goal of electronic medical records is better clinical outcomes and improved population health, Ellis said.

“This ‘meaningful use’ achievement represents a lot of hard work by many people,” said Dr. Nicholas Benson, medical director of ECU Physicians. “It validates that ECU Physicians is making the most out of our investment in EMR.”

Ellis said ECU Physicians is on track to earn the maximum incentive for 2015, and that the free online patient portal, MyChart, will play an increasingly important role to that end in coming months.

“It’s another way to improve the patient’s access to their health care provider, which strengthens the patient-provider relationship,” Ellis said. “Engaged, informed people take better care of themselves, which lowers health care costs.”

He explained that MyChart allows patients to send and receive secure messages to their health care team from their computer, tablet or smartphone, to view their test results and medication lists, to request appointments and refill prescriptions and to receive reminders about preventive and health maintenance issues like flu shots and mammograms.

More than 26,000 ECU Physicians patients are using MyChart, with an average of more than 50 new users signing up daily.

Today about three-fourths of the country’s medical practices and hospitals use electronic records, motivated in part by the federal health law tying Medicare reimbursements to how successful providers are at getting and keeping patients healthy. At the end of 2014, all ECU clinics were using the practice’s current EMR, created by the software company Epic.

Although it’s difficult to quantify the dollar amount saved by “going paperless,” Ellis said, “theoretically, the quicker you can get your hands on more information, the better decisions you can make, and in a more timely manner – which is cost-saving for patients and for health systems.”

Jun 162015

Coming this fall Laupus Library will host the brand new traveling exhibition, Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions. The six-banner traveling exhibition explores the factors that have shaped the changing definitions of some of our most potent drugs, from medical miracle to social menace.

Mind-altering drdrugugs have been used throughout the history of America. While some remain socially acceptable, others are outlawed because of their toxic, and intoxicating, characteristics. The transformation of a particular drug, from an acceptable indulgence to a bad habit, or vice versa, is closely tied to the intentions of those endorsing its use, and their status in society. These classifications have shifted at different times in history, and will continue to change.

The exhibit will be on display from September 21 through October 31 in the Evelyn Fike Laupus exhibit gallery located on the 4th floor of Laupus Library.

A “Digital Gallery” offering a selection of digitized, historical texts from the History of Medicine Division’s diverse collections can be found as part of the online version of the exhibition. These images provide viewers with new avenues to explore beyond the exhibition. Educators will also find expanded resources online for middle school and college level classroom use.

Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures and Medical Prescriptions was produced by the National Library of Medicine, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and began traveling around the United States in April 2015.

 For more information, contact or visit us on the web at:


Medical school names first female surgery chair in the Southeast

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Jun 092015

TuttleNewhall,Betsy-c57The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has named a new chair for its Department of Surgery, making Brody the first medical school in the Southeast to have a female in that position.

Dr. J.E. “Betsy” Tuttle-Newhall is the seventh woman to be appointed surgery chair at any of the nation’s 200-plus medical schools, according to the Association of Women Surgeons.

Originally from Madison, Tuttle-Newhall has returned to North Carolina after serving as the division chief of abdominal transplant surgery and primary transplant surgeon at Cardinal Glennon Pediatric Hospital in St. Louis. She was also vice chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the St. Louis University Hospital School of Medicine and co-director of their Abdominal Transplant Center.

While in St. Louis, Tuttle-Newhall was the recipient of multiple clinical and teaching awards, as well as several Medals of Honor from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for her efforts to improve and expand organ donation and transplantation processes.

Her research efforts have focused on living kidney donors, critical care of transplant recipients, and transplant center design and governance.

After earning a medical degree from Wake Forest University’s Bowman Gray School of Medicine in 1988, Tuttle-Newhall completed a surgery residency and a clinical fellowship in surgery at the New England Deaconess Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. She furthered her training with a surgical critical care fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an abdominal transplant surgery fellowship at Duke University Medical Center.

Following her fellowships, Tuttle-Newhall held several academic positions at Duke, including associate professor of surgery and critical care, and director of the medical school’s physician assistant residency in surgery.

She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in health care administration at the St. Louis University School of Public Health.

Brody’s Summer Program for Future Doctors

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May 262015

The Brody School of Medicine welcomed 31 students May 18 who were selected from 115 applicants for the 2015 Summer Program for Future Doctors. The participants include aspiring applicants to medical school and matriculating students who will start their first year at the Brody School of Medicine in August.

Since beginning in 1978, the summer program has been driven by the same mission as the medical school. It is focused on improving the preparation of medical school applicants with an emphasis on North Carolina natives from groups that are underrepresented in medicine. While all North Carolina residents are encouraged to apply, special consideration is given to minority students, students from disadvantaged backgrounds and non-traditional students who are changing paths and retooling for medical school.

SPFD 2015 blog

The Summer Program for Future Doctors is an intense, nine-week academic program that allows participants to experience the rigors of the medical school curriculum. Participants take courses in anatomy, biochemistry, physiology and neuroanatomy. These courses are taught by the same faculty members who teach the first year of medical school and give the students an opportunity to show that they can perform, and even thrive, in this learning environment.

The program provides more than an academic challenge. The students interact with rising second-year medical students who serve as teaching assistants. They have shadowing opportunities provided with Brody physicians, experience patient interviews through the Office of Clinical Skills and participate in a medical simulation experience. The program provides the future doctors with feedback on a mock medical school admissions interview and helps them prepare their personal statement required in the admissions process. Time is also allocated for MCAT preparation.


After the program ends, each participant is provided with a comprehensive evaluation that includes more than test scores. Each student is evaluated for his/her professionalism, work ethic, ability to work with others and other non-cognitive values that contribute to the student’s ability to become an effective and compassionate physician. Most medical schools accept this evaluation at the level of an evaluation by a university premedical committee. Highly-rated participants do matriculate to medical school:

  • Eight participants from the 2014 program applied for admission this year.
  • Seven have been admitted to medical school.
  • Five will attend Brody and two will attend other North Carolina medical schools.
  • Two students from the 2013 SPFD will also attend BSOM this fall bringing the total admitted from that program to 12 (of 15 who have applied to date).

Please welcome the 2015 participants! The second floor of Brody will be full of hard-working students who hope to become Brody students and future graduates. A smile or a kind word will help them accomplish their goals.

Dr. Richard Ray, director