Anyone can conjure an excuse to not vote for Pullman Regional Hospital’s $29 million community bond on the Nov. 5 ballot.

But it would be just that, an excuse. Not a reason.

Pullman has grown greatly since the current hospital was built on Bishop Boulevard 15 years ago and, city growth currently is vigorous.

The hospital also must grow if Pullman residents are to have the health care they want and need, or even maintain the level of care now provided.

Hospitals don’t grow themselves.

Neither does the community of primary care and specialty physicians.

Technology and other developments in medicine aren’t standing still. They are rapidly advancing.

Does our community truly want to be left behind?

We currently have excellent medical care, especially including the hospital, but standing still is essentially going backwards as advancements continue apace or even accelerate as it is likely to do.

Don’t we all grouse about the frustration of having to repetitively fill out medical records? By hand!

The bond will fund a “universal, community-wide electronic medical record” in a central repository that physician offices and hospitals will be able to access.

I don’t know why PRH calls this a “community-wide” system. It is much more than that.

The proposed system is a product of Epic Systems Corporation, of Verona, Wisc. It is commonly referred to simply as “Epic,” or Epic EMR, and is the most common system used by hospitals in the United States. PRH CEO Scott Adams tells me it is used by more than half of the hospitals in Washington State.

Epic’s website reports that hospitals that use its software serve 64 percent of patients in the United States.

Electronic medical records are far, far more than a mere convenience for patients. Having all of Pullman’s physicians in the system will improve coordinated care locally.

I’ll site a local example, of which I have personal information.

Some 10 years ago a Colfax woman suffered a blood clot in her lung and wound up in the Colfax hospital emergency room in the middle of the night.

CT images were made, but there was no interventional radiologist on the Palouse to make the diagnosis. So, the images were sent over the Web to Australia where they were read.

The next morning, she was transported to a Coeur d’Alene hospital via a “code red” ambulance run. There, a filter was implanted to protect her lungs from future blood clots.

Similarly, when someone has a medical emergency out-of-town, doctors at the hospital they are taken to will be able to immediately access their medical records at PRH regardless of the time of day or night, holidays included. Thus, time-of day and work schedules are nullified.

This can be literally lifesaving.

The cost of adopting Epic software is estimated at $8-$10 million. Adams reports a major portion of the cost is converting and importing existing electronic records into the Epic system.

Other aspects of the bond proposal are equally important, if not more so.

Money from the bond will help expand Pullman’s medical community to include more specialists, such as neurology, oncology, and two specialist services now in Moscow because PRH doesn’t have space for them.

Potential new physician specialties could increase access to family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, cardiology, gastroenterology, psychiatry, general surgery, OB/GYN, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, allergy, dermatology, physical medicine, rheumatology, endocrinology and nephrology.

Terence L. Day is a retired Washington State faculty member who has lived in Pullman since 1972. He encourages reader contact via phone (509/334-1619) and email to terence@moscow.com.

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