Patient engagement helps drive investment in electronic health records system
What if you had the ability to view your lab test results, schedule medical appointments and communicate with your healthcare provider through a secure online portal?
What if you no longer had to carry your medical records, radiology images, lab test results and medication lists from one doctor’s office to another?
What if providers in hospitals nationwide could get a comprehensive view of your medical history even when you were injured and
unable to speak?
For patients in Aspen Valley Hospital’s Network of Care, these and many more capabilities will be available after the launch of Epic, a new electronic health records (EHR) system, in 2022. Already used by many top-ranked U.S. hospitals and medical schools, Epic is widely considered the “gold standard” of EHR systems.
“Traditionally, each healthcare system had its own records for each patient, and the data was not shared between different organizations where the patient received care,” said Michelle Gelroth, Chief Information Officer at AVH. “Epic is different because it provides a single, comprehensive record for each patient. If you receive care from AVH and then go to another provider that uses Epic, your medical information will go with you. Your providers will have it at their fingertips when you show up in a doctor’s office, urgent care clinic or emergency room.”
ELEVATING PATIENT ENGAGEMENT
Epic’s purpose is to introduce a new level of automation, innovation and workflow optimization to a healthcare environment increasingly focused on quality outcomes, financial efficiency and patient engagement.
One especially visible way Epic will elevate engagement will be MyChart, an online portal where individuals can send secure messages to providers, schedule appointments, request prescription refills, review medical records, access lab results, pay bills and provide feedback about their care experiences. Through an accompanying mobile app, patients can check in for appointments and complete forms electronically.
Patients who stay overnight at AVH can access MyChart Bedside for up-to-date records. Then, after leaving the hospital, they can view educational information, complete surveys and communicate with care teams. Building on a pandemic-driven surge in interest for telemedicine, MyChart will also offer expanded opportunities for patients to receive care without leaving the comfort of home — an important option for those experiencing illness, inclement weather or other challenges.
AVH providers, too, will use Epic in ways that directly benefit patients. By enabling care coordination among different organizations, Epic will close care gaps and reduce duplication of services. Epic can also save clinicians time when every moment matters.
MEETING AVH’S UNIQUE NEEDS
This is not the first time AVH has explored Epic capabilities. As part of a hosted arrangement with UCHealth in 2016, AVH considered implementing Epic but ultimately never moved forward. The difference now is that AVH is working directly with Epic to implement a system based on the Roaring Fork Valley community’s unique characteristics, resources and needs.
For example: Epic can configure AVH’s system to provide additional services for people taken to Snowmass Clinic with ski injuries. “Because of the way Epic will be set up for AVH, we will be able to identify the company where the person rented ski equipment and make sure it gets returned while the patient is treated,” Gelroth said. “That is a unique part of the workflow that most hospital systems don’t need.”
Epic’s flexibility will also allow AVH to include The Steadman Clinic in the system’s design. As an independent physician practice, Steadman does not use Epic. However, AVH and Steadman are working closely to ensure seamless care coordination, data sharing and interoperability between their systems.
TESTING AND TIMELINES
The current plan is for Epic to begin development in January and for the system to launch in fall 2022. Much of that 10-month span will be spent testing the functionality.
“We want to be certain that we have significantly tested every scenario possible before we bring the system into live use,” Gelroth said. “During these tests, we will also look at workflows and make sure we have designed a tool that enhances the patient care experience, not one that is cumbersome or frustrating for patients or employees. With thorough testing, we can ensure the issues after going live are minimal and that our providers are able to focus on what they do best: caring for our community.”
The timing of AVH’s project is fortuitous. Epic was only recently made available to smaller, independent hospitals. This allows AVH to adopt best-in-class technology at a scale designed to meet ambitious goals around improving patient care, innovating healthcare delivery, achieving financial stability and driving population health.
“We’re focused on helping our healthcare team meet the unique needs of our community,” said Dave Ressler, CEO of AVH. “We are excited and proud to be on the leading edge of the EHR innovation for small hospitals.”
HOW AVH MADE AN EPIC DECISION
Although Epic is the country’s most widely used and comprehensive electronic health records system, size was only one of the Hospital’s considerations when selecting its own system.
“One of our strategic goals in selecting an EHR was its ability to connect with other systems and organizations,” said Gelroth. “Many systems are ‘closed’ in terms of their ability to share data, making it difficult to ensure a patient’s information is readily available to them. That’s important when a patient leaves AVH to go back home and also when a patient unexpectedly ends up at AVH while on vacation.”
For providers who do not use an Epic system, AVH can grant them access to their patients’ records. However, that appears to be increasingly rare.
“We are seeing many hospitals and providers across Colorado moving onto Epic, including our colleagues at UCHealth, St. Mary’s Medical Center and Centura Health,” Gelroth said. “As more of our peer institutions adopt interoperative systems, care coordination across the state will be much easier.”