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$180M EHR Implementation Project Approved at UW Medicine

UW Medicine recently approved a $180 million, 30-month EHR implementation as part of a clinical transformation project.

UW Medicine recently approved a $180 million EHR implementation

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

-  The University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine Finance and Asset Management Committee recently approved a $180 million EHR implementation project to replace its existing Cerner and Epic systems with a single, integrated EHR solution.

The EHR implementation is part of a larger clinical transformation (CT) effort “led by clinical and business leaders to standardize and simplify systems used to do work on a daily basis,” according to documents related to the UW Medicine project, budget, and internal lending program funding.

“CT includes the expansion to an enterprise-wide single electronic health record (EHR) solution,” wrote UW Medicine officials. “It will enable the larger transformation effort by serving as a catalyst for change as defined in the UW Medicine FIT Plan. It is a transformational project enabled by technology."

The UW Medicine network includes UW Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, Northwest Hospital, Valley Medical Center, UW Physicians, the UW School of Medicine, and two other healthcare facilities.

“Currently, UW Medicine clinicians document clinical care across a mosaic of systems,” stated officials. “Specifically, there are numerous medical record systems which clinicians and support teams must access every time care is provided to a patient.”

Working across multiple health IT systems from different vendors can obstruct clinical efficiency and complicate health data access and exchange between the eight UW Medicine facilities.

In 2003, UW Medicine implemented Cerner Millenium at its inpatient UW Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center care sites. Meanwhile, providers at UW Medicine’s outpatient sites use Epic. UW Medicine providers and administrative staff also use Epic for registration, scheduling, and billing.

UW Medicine’s Northwest Hospital uses a Cerner Soarian EHR system. The contract for the Soarian system ends June 30, 2020.

“Moving to a single outpatient/inpatient EHR will not only mitigate the risk related to the end of the Soarian contract at NWH, it will allow for UW Medicine to sunset more than 70 other ancillary systems that are currently in use across the enterprise,” wrote UW Medicine officials.

“IT estimates significant savings in the licensing and subscription costs, and in the cost incurred to support the proliferation of systems across UW Medicine,” officials continued.

In addition to saving the health system money, implementing a single, consolidated system will also help to streamline clinical workflows and improve care coordination across the continuum of care.

The overall timeline for the CT program is expected to be about 30 months, according to UW Medicine documents related to the project. The first UW Medicine care site should go live with the system in 21 months, with the remaining sites expected to go live within the following six months.

The date of the go-live is slated to occur sometime within the fourth quarter of 2020.

While the EHR implementation will eventually yield cost savings for the health system, UW Medicine officials expect direct project costs to exceed $150 million. 

“The project consists of designing, building, and implementing the workflows, processes, and systems to support standardization and efficiencies throughout UW Medicine,” clarified UW Medicine. “The total cost of the project is $180 million which is comprised of $159.5 million in direct project costs and $20.8 million in site-specific costs for the medical centers, such as staff training.”

Sixty-seven percent of the project cost involves labor costs, while only 12 percent will be spent on actual software.

One percent of project costs will go toward hardware, while 12 percent has been allotted for vendor services.

Ultimately, the EHR implementation project will help to allow clinicians to spend more time with patients, develop standards of care across UW Medicine, streamline clinical documentation, improve revenue cycle management, simplify and standardize operations, and optimize resource utilization across the health system.

UW Medicine has not revealed which EHR vendor will receive the $180 million contract award.

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