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NE Health Center to Launch EHR Replacement for Connected Care

A Nebraska health center will invest in an integrated EHR replacement to connect its hospital and clinic.

A Nebraska health center will invest in an EHR replacement project.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- The Lexington Regional Health Center (LRHC) board of directors recently issued authorization to move forward on plans to launch an EHR replacement project to swap out the disparate systems in LRHC’s hospital and clinic.

The board of directors gave LRHC CEO Leslie Marsh and Chief Financial Officer Wade Eschenbrenner authorization to discuss a significant IT capital request with bond holders and enter negotiations with a health IT company.

The EHR replacement will be a single, integrated system to enable health data exchange between LRHC’s hospital and clinic for improved care coordination, clinical efficiency, and better-informed clinical decision-making.

“To be successful over the next 10 years we need to have an integrated system,” Eschenbrenner told Lexch.com. “Having two systems has been difficult on both sides.”

When LRHC added a clinic to its network — Family Medicine Specialists — its current EHR vendor said they would be able to connect the system in LRHC’s new facility to the existing system in its hospital.

“We are five years down the road and they are no closer than they were,” said Eschenbrenner.

Clinicians at the health center have expressed frustration with problems related to health data exchange and EHR access.

According to Fran Acosta-Carlson, MD, accessing lab test results for patients seen at the clinic who are referred to the hospital can be time-consuming.

“It’s frustrating when we are right here and we can’t easily and quickly access those labs,” said Acosta-Carlson.

Clinicians in the emergency room have run into similar problems. A patient coming into the emergency room will tell clinicians they are taking a prescription, but may not be able to remember what it is called. Emergency room staff have a difficult time accessing the necessary patient health data to confirm the patient’s prescription.

These inefficiencies can negatively affect patient care delivery. With a single, integrated system, clinicians across specialties and care settings within the LRHC network will be able to quickly and easily access test results.

Implementing an integrated EHR system may help to reduce these inefficiencies and promote more timely care delivery. According to a LRHC Quality and Compliance Officer Dana Steiner, the area has a high rate of late breast cancer diagnoses.

“There is a high rate of late diagnoses in our county,” said Steiner.

While the new EHR replacement will come with expensive upfront costs, LRCH Board President Rob Anderson said the EHR system should save the hospital money overtime.

However, Chief Nursing Officer Nicole Thorell cautioned EHR replacement projects can become recruitment issues given the number of clinicians and staff members required to implement the system and ensure administrative and clinical processes at the hospital continue to run smoothly.

Tennessee-based Erlanger Health System ran into financial issues during its $100 million Epic EHR implementation project in part because it needed to hire an additional 100 employees to assist with the complex, 10-year implementation project.

The Epic implementation contributed directly to about $4 million in losses for the health system.

These short-term losses are to be expected after a new system implementation.

Overall, the EHR replacement project at LRHC will enable more streamlined health data access and exchange for LRHC clinicians and staff.

Thorell told Lexch.com there needs to be “one patient record, one patient chart.”

LRCH has not revealed the projected cost of the project.

The health center has not decided on a health IT company to carry out the project, but LRHC board members have authorized health center leadership to gather information from vendors and begin the selection process.

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