University of South Florida

Dr. Karen Bruder guides USF Health into Epic, knowing its potential for improving patient safety

This story is part of a series highlighting faculty who are shining examples of quality and compassionate patient care and patient safety. Every day, these health care providers put their patients first. In the process, they create successful models of advanced care focused on empathy, safety, technology and evidenced-based medicine, models that carry through everything they do – into their practice, their teaching, their research, their community outreach, and into the USF Physicians Group.

Karen Bruder, MD, FACOG, was straight out of her medical residency when she saw firsthand the impact data could have on improving patient safety. As an invited member of the patient safety committee at American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Dr. Bruder was privy to national trends for problems and part of the effort to implement change for improvement.

Today, she is extending that reach directly into the patient care settings at USF Health. As Executive Physician Champion for USF Health’s transition into the Epic electronic health records (EHR) system, Dr. Bruder is the lead for guiding every health care provider at USF Health into the new EHR system.

Dr. Karen Bruder

Dr. Karen Bruder

To understand the true impact of that role, you might first know that Epic is a national leader in EHR and the same system used by Tampa General Hospital, the primary teaching hospital for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. This transition means patients will no longer need to collect and transport their records as they go from one partner institution to the other.

But more than that, Epic will help USF’s health care teams see up-to-the-minute records of patients at both institutions. It’s that real-time data – giving as complete a picture as possible of every patient – that is Dr. Bruder’s true target because that component directly correlates to patient safety.

“There’s one great benefit with Epic to patients, which they may or may not realize, and that is a reduction of medical error,” Dr. Bruder said. “A great deal of errors happen when information is transferred from one place to another. Epic gives us the ability to have one chart for one patient. No longer will we have to have one electronic record for the USF practices and one electronic record at Tampa General. Instead they will be all the same. With Epic, we now have access to their entire health record, particularly about medications, recommendations from other physicians, and abnormal test results. Now those issues can be immediately recognized and addressed.”

Epic offers a way to more closely track care across the entire USF Physicians Group and Tampa General, providing a constant watch for contradictions, contraindications, and uses of standardized care. This ongoing analysis goes beyond strong team-based care, Dr. Bruder said, and gives the opportunity to truly impact and improve care.

In addition to her title with the Epic transition, Dr. Bruder is also associate professor, director of the USF Division of General Obstetrics and Gynecology, medical director of the Genesis Women’s Center at Tampa General Healthpark, and chief of Ob/Gyn at Tampa General Hospital. She is also active in the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative, a state-wide initiative aiming to improve the quality of health care quality and patient safety for mothers and their babies.

Her day is full of patient care and teaching medical students and residents. The passion she has for her career is easily seen by those around her – she clearly loves her job.

“Being an obstetrician is the greatest job in the world,” she said. “We get to experience the power of women who are carrying their babies, protecting their babies, then bringing their babies into the world and starting a new family. Some of my days I spend in labor and delivery, delivering new babies, doing cesarean surgeries, teaching residents how to do those deliveries, working with the nursing staff. Some days I’m at the Genesis Clinic. Every day is a little bit different and that’s what keeps it fresh and exciting for me.

USF Health

USF Health

USF Health

“But I’m definitely the student as well as the teacher. I learn things from patients every day. I learn things from students and residents and the nursing staff every day. The teaching aspect of it for me is continuous. And because of my interest in quality, I’m able to share that with the residents and students and bring them into those conversations. We actually start teaching students at the medical school level about medical error and patient safety and best practices so that when they come to their residencies, those concepts are already familiar to them.

And the basis of those lessons is rooted in standards.

“Patient safety is really about developing standards of care and looking at processes in detail so we can avoid medical error,” Dr. Bruder said. “That is sometimes difficult to achieve, because there are so many parts of what happens to a patient from day to day. A lot of people are involved, a lot of steps happen between the patient and doctor conversation, the doctor ordering a test, the patient having the test, and then interpreting those results. Everything comes full circle, but anywhere in that process there can be an error that can affect the care of the patient. So our job with patient safety and quality is to look at national standards of care and then examine our processes to be sure we’re following those standards of care, and then making changes, piece by piece, until there is very little room for human error. The electronic health record helps a great deal with that.”

USF Health

Loving her job comes naturally to Dr. Bruder, who always knew she wanted to be a doctor. The fact that she can incorporate her pursuit of patient safety into that career is an added bonus.

USF Health

“I went to medical school to become an obstetrician gynecologist,” she said. “I’m one of the fortunate doctors who knew what I wanted to do before I got to medical school. And I’ve never changed my mind. It’s always been a great choice for me and a real source of joy and pride in my life to be able to take care of patients and to teach residents and students.

“When I was a young physician, just out of residency, I was invited to join the inaugural patient safety committee at ACOG, our educating and professional body of obstetrics and gynecology. That’s when I became aware of the Institute of Medicine report that was issued in 2001 and all the patient safety issues that were occurring in the United States. And since that time, wherever I’ve practiced, I’ve been very aware of patient safety issues, quality of care, how important it is for everyone on the patient’s care team to work together.”

And that’s where Epic comes into play again for Dr. Bruder. But only to a point.

“With all this new technology we still need to remember as individual physicians and as a team of caregivers, the most important thing is to be kind to the patients,” she said. “It’s always about the patients. It’s always about how we matter in their lives, it’s always about improving their lives, and it’s always about having a connection between them and us.”

Photos and video by Sandra Roa, USF Health Communications

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