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Mayo Clinic Prepares for Early Challenges During Epic EHR Go-Live

With its Epic EHR implementation launching at Rochester care sites within 24 hours, Mayo Clinic prepares for the adjustment period.

Mayo Clinic prepares for a period of adjustment following its Epic EHR implementation launch.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Mayo Clinic is making efforts to accommodate the inevitable period of adjustment that will follow its Epic EHR implementation go-live at Rochester care sites by enrolling staff members in rigorous training and cutting back on appointments, according to MPR News.

Mayo Clinic’s Rochester facilities will go live with the system on Saturday, May 5. Mayo Clinic’s single, integrated Epic EHR implementation is one of the biggest and most expensive health IT system launches in the country, with a $1.5 billion price tag.

To prepare for the system launch, Mayo Clinic staff members have been participating in extensive EHR system training.

Staff training can make or break an EHR implementation — in the past, health systems have experienced conflict between hospital management and staff, as well as system errors as a result of poor staff training. By ensuring its more than 50,000 employees receive adequate staff training, Mayo Clinic may shorten the adjustment period and reduce the number of system errors and reporting problems that crop up in the early days after the go-live.

The new system will ensure Mayo Clinic’s hospitals and clinics are utilizing a single, unified health record to streamline patient health data access, appointment scheduling, and other clinical and administrative processes.

"We will be able to work more effectively for the benefit of our patients on a unified system," Epic EHR implementation project co-chair Steve Peters, MD, told MPR News. "We believe that an integrated electronic health record across all of our sites can help us with our core mission of meeting patients' needs."

Additionally, Mayo Clinic will likely see financial gains as a result of the Epic EHR. The system will assist in streamlining clinical documentation and health data exchange for providers, which can be a boon for meeting federal reporting requirements to earn federal incentives.

Equipping providers with more comprehensive patient health records will also enable better-informed clinical decision-making, which will help to improve health outcomes, reduce hospital readmissions, and reduce duplicative testing. Reductions in duplicate testing and hospital readmissions can help to significantly cut hospital spending.

While Mayo Clinic expects to see significant improvements in patient care delivery and hospital savings long-term, the months immediately following an EHR implementation launch are historically rocky.

A senior credit officer told MPR News billing processes slow down during the adjustment period that follows a new EHR system launch.

"Occasionally, it gets really bad," Moody’s Analytics Senior Credit Officer Dan Steingart told MPR News. "Bills are not going out the door as planned. And if the accounts receivable balance goes on too long before you've sent out a bill, you end up having to write off that accounts receivable."

In an effort to reduce losses stemming from billing delays, Mayo Clinic made the decision to cut back on appointments in some care settings and facilities to allow staff members to devote more time to adjusting to new methods of patient data entry. While reducing the number of appointments will help to avoid serious snags in billing, it will likely also lengthen wait times for patients.

Many Mayo Clinic employees have also complained that training is time-consuming and confusing. Some anonymous employees told MPR News the additional training has augmented the stress of keeping up with already-significant daily workloads. Doctors have also said the Epic system seems to add to the amount of administrative work they do per day rather than detract.

Staff members are also concerned patients will respond negatively to potential increases in wait times.

However, Mayo Clinic plans to apply valuable lessons learned from its previous roll-outs at facilities in southern Minnesota and Wisconsin to ensure the Rochester go-live runs more smoothly.

Despite early concerns about the immediate effects of the go-live, Mayo Clinic employees trust the new system will significantly improve patient care delivery in the long run.

The Epic EHR implementation project has been in the works since 2015, after Mayo Clinic signed a contract with Epic to consolidate its medical records into a single, unified platform that were formerly stored on Cerner and General Electric EHR systems.

Mayo Clinic plans to go live with the system at its care sites in Arizona in Florida in October 2018.

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