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Epic EHR Latest Addition to Walgreens HIT Infrastructure

The Epic EHR replaces proprietary EHR technology Walgreens has used at its retail clinics throughout the country

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- The retail clinic space appears to be a one-horse race now that that a leading pharmacy is scheduled for an Epic EHR implementation in its onsite clinics in the coming year.

Epic EHRs coming to Walgreens

Late last week, Walgreens announced that its network of more than 400 healthcare clinics will transition to EHR technology from Epic Systems, EpiCare. The Epic EHR replaces proprietary EHR technology Walgreens has used at its retail clinics throughout the country.

According to the company's Chief Medical Office for Healthcare Clinics, Patrick Carroll, MD, the motivation for the EHR selection is improvement to health information exchange between Walgreens and external providers

"This state-of-the-industry EHR will enable more seamless communication with health systems and local providers, and gives us enhanced capabilities to deliver better health outcomes through greater care coordination and interoperability," he said in a public statement.

"As our clinics play an increasingly important role in health care, supporting the health care system, provider practices and patients’ medical homes, care coordination can be critical," he continued. "This will benefit our patients, clinic providers and partners, and serves as an instrumental part of our strategic growth plan."

Walgreens now joins rival CVS which more than a year ago decided to transition to an Epic EHR for its brand of onsite clinics, MinuteClinic. According to CVS leadership, that company's EHR selection was likewise heavily motivated by the need for effective information sharing.

“We’ve reached a point in the evolution of our clinical practice where a more advanced EMR that facilitates more immediate information sharing with other health care providers is needed,” Andrew Sussman, MD, President of MinuteClinic and Senior VP and Associate CMO of CVS Caremark Corporation, stated at the time.

The decision to implement an Epic EHR is consistent with the company's overall approach over the past year to expand its presence as more than a retail pharmacy.

"We have a phenomenal platform to improve health and delivery value to the marketplace," Walgreens CMO and Group Vice President Harry Leider, MD, MBA, told EHRIntelligence.com last December. "The big idea is using our physical and digital footprint to support patients to get well, stay well, or to help manage chronic illness."

These claims came months after Walgreens finished its implementation of Greenway Health's cloud-based EHR technology in its pharmacies. While limited to the pharmacy, that EHR implementation had a similar purpose to that of this most recent decision to implement Epic's EpiCare — the exchange of health information.

“From the patient’s perspective, Walgreens is going to be integral to much of a patient’s healthcare experience, but we’re never going to be the provider for all things,” Paul Eddy, Group Vice President and Divisional CIO of Business Services and Solutions at Walgreens, said last fall. “In order to do that, we need to be able to share information. As part of our overall healthcare technology implementation journey, we build out a fairly extensive connected health enterprise.

According to a spokesperson from Walgreens, the two EHR platforms will co-exist, Greenway on the pharmacy side and Epic in the onsite clinics.

As long as this remains the case, Walgreens should have some interoperability work to do internally to ensure that patient information can move between pharmacists and clinicians under the same roof (or umbrella).

The Epic EHR implementation at Walgreens begins in early 2016. Details about its scheduled completion date were not made available.




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