Beginning Nov. 1, the University of Arizona Medical Center will launch an electronic health records storage system.

The software system was designed by a private company called Epic, which is located in Madison, Wis.

"(Epic) is...among the most popular within academic medical centers," said Peter Catinella, chief medical information officer at UAMC. "Fifty-one percent of Americans...have a medical record within an Epic system, which is quite an achievement for them and represents, I think, the robustness and the strength of their system.”

Electronic health records have been in use in the U.S. since the late 1960s.

In 2010, Tucson Medical Center was the first hospital in Southern Arizona to fully adopt electronic medical records.

“The experience has been positive in terms of improving patient safety, care quality, and efficiency,” said Alicia Moura, director of communications at TMC. “The effort was a major learning experience for all participants in our organization…physicians, nurses, allied health staff, and administrative personnel. Virtually all hospital workflows and processes were affected by this transition and had to be carefully examined and modified for an all-electronic environment.”

An important consideration for the changeover at UAMC is the ability of electronic medical records to empower patients.

With the Epic system, “There’s great continuity and patients can even log in from the web,” Catinella said. “Their phone can be used for this purpose and then once they have an account they could actually see their children’s growth charts or their immunization information. They can ask for medication refills and schedule appointments. These are things that I think really empower patients to take on more of their own care.”