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E-records valuable for Health Department
Commission OKs annual software renewal
karen winkelman
Barton County Health Director Karen Winkelman discusses the use of Nightingale Notes Electronic Health Records during the County Commission meeting Wednesday morning. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Wednesday morning:

• Approved the renewal of Nightingale Notes Electronic Health Records subscription for the Health Department.

• A matching fund request: for the Southwest Kansas Area Agency on Aging.

SWKAAA is requesting $1,500 in matching funds from Barton County.  These funds, which would be used as “seed dollars” are an equivalent match to the $549,966 in services received by older residents and low-income families from Barton County, said Operations Director Matt Patzner.  The County has traditionally provided a match from the Finance General Account of the General Fund.  

SWKAAA had requested $1,650, but the commission during budget talks last year agreed to keep outside agency funding requests at last year’s level, which was $1,500.

• Held a discussion of the  Kansas Legislative Policy Group Winter Meeting Jan. 24 in Topeka, led by District 2 Commissioner Barb Esfeld, who attended the meeting.

• Held a 20-minute executive session to discuss matters pertaining to non-elected personnel and attorney-client privilege. Joining them were County Counselor Patrick Hoffman and Operations Director Matt Patzner.

No action was taken following the session, but commissioners said the role of county administrator would be on the agenda next week.

Noting the value and benefit of the system, the Barton County Commission Wednesday morning approved the renewal of Nightingale Notes Electronic Health Records subscription for the Health Department.

In December 2017, the commission approved the purchase of the software at a cost of $20,478, said Health Director Karen Winkelman said. The department has received a billing of $29,731 from Champ Software for the 2023-2024 subscription of 23 named licenses.

“I anticipated the costs to increase from last year so I budgeted that increase anticipation,” she said. Even so, it still came in under budget. 

This is an annual renewal fee and the subscription runs from March 1 through Feb. 28, 2024. She did explore a multi-year subscription and a three-year contract would have saved about 5%.

However, the field of electronic records is a fluid one and better options may become available, she said. So, she didn’t want to tie the department to this rate for such a span.

Worth the money

“Within about a five year time-frame, we have 29,806 clients in the system,” she said. “This has been a really good EMR for us.”

They are looking at enhancing that with some collaboration with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to bring some of its program information into the system, she said. 

“That’s more people than we even have in Barton County,” said an impressed commission Chairman Shawn Hutchinson, District 3. 

“Over the three-year COVID pandemic span, that number just escalated fast,” Winkelman said. “And if we would have had to make paper charts for each one of those, the cost would have been phenomenal, along with the cost of employees’ workload. So this has been very good.”

Her department uses it for documentation and billing, and they are able to scan records that come to them. “And we also are able to pull data from it with it being electronic, which is a necessity for grants,” she said.