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Improved Health Data Exchange at Heart of UVM Epic EHR Plan

The University of Vermont Medical Center requests a total upheaval of current systems in favor of an updated Epic EHR to improve health data exchange.

UVMC will update its Epic EHR to improve health data exchange.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

A recent editorial by the Press Republican gets at the heart of two recent health IT developments involving the University of Vermont Medical Center — improving health data exchange.

The University of Vermont Medical Center recently requested the state of Vermont approve a proposal to share EHRs with four hospitals in its network including Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh and Elizabethtown Community Hospital.  

Improving EHR health data exchange between hospitals will streamline billing, scheduling, and insurance information exchange between hospitals as well as improve overall patient care. If this request is approved, a patient in the UVM network would have her information easily available to providers wherever she seeks care.

Pending approval, coordinating the networks’ systems will amount to $112.4 million in costs and take a little over 3 years. Over the first six years, the cost of implementing the program and running operations will top $151 million.

The cost of connecting these systems together is significantly less than the cost of each hospital upgrading their technology independently, as that would surpass $200 million. 

The Epic EHR implementation will link all data at the four hospitals and eliminate the present assortment of systems, some of which are 20 years old.

 “The current hodgepodge of systems is burdensome for both our patients and the providers who care for them. Patients have limited access to their clinical information and little or no ability to schedule appointments or interact with their providers easily and smoothly,” said Spencer R. Knapp, Esq., who is representing UVM Health Network in their certificate of need application.

While HIXNY, a regional health information exchange connecting hospitals in New York that recently added UVW Medical Center to its network, is already allowing for the sharing of EHRs through its system, it does not offer all the advantages available through a network connected through the Epic EHR.

Both HIXNY and VITL, Vermont’s health information exchange, provide helpful services to providers regarding access to health information, but their technology is made more complex due to disparate systems across the providers.

 “HIXNY is a regional approach to sharing information but limits the amount of information available due to the complexities of communicating between many different computer systems from all providers in the region, not just the UVM Health Network hospitals,” CVPH VP/Chief Quality & Information Officer Wouter Rietsema, MD, told to the Press Republican.

Whereas switching all systems in four hospitals in the UVM Health Network will eliminate the challenges imposed by disparate systems attempting to communicate, many HIXNY providers are still not on the same page.

“There are other providers and facilities that are not part of our UVM Health Network, and we will still need HIXNY as patients move from one setting to another, in and out of our network,” Rietsema said.

HIXNY has made great strides toward true interoperability by enabling health information exchange across state lines despite its potential shortcomings.

“We want to offer a complete electronic health record for everyone in the region we serve, including those who live near the boundaries of our service area,” said Bryan Cudmore, Hixny’s Vice President of Account Management, late last year.

These advancements in health information exchange are vital to the industry-wide effort toward improving patient care through connected, accessible online health data.

“Epic would be an internal system (to UVM Health Network) that will allow providers to get much more information at the point of service. HIXNY is limited, whereas Epic will make it easier for patients to navigate the system because there will be fewer forms and provider questions and greater consistency of care,” Reitsam stated.

UVM Medical Center’s certificate of need is still pending approval. 

Dig Deeper: 
Why a Thin Line Separates EHR Implementation, Optimization
What is EHR Optimization, How Does It Start?

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