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Transition to Epic EHR Impedes Prescription Refills at Memorial

A month after turning on its new Epic EHR, a New Hampshire hospital is swimming in prescription refill requests.

Epic EHR causing prescription refill headaches

Source: Thinkstock

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- Patients aren’t pleased with recent changes at Memorial Hospital in Conway, New Hampshire, that are contributing to considerable lag in approving requests for prescription refills.

Terry Leavitt of The Conway Daily Sun reported that hospital staff at the 25-bed critical access hospital is unable keep up with the volume of requests and administrators have acknowledged complaints.

According to the hospital representatives, the problem has to do with workflow.

“In the Epic system's first month of operation, refill requests for many prescriptions were coming into the new system for the first time. Each patient’s information had to be checked against the old system and updated,” wrote Leavitt. “The difficulties in learning a new system, as well as the holidays, pushed refill turn-around time out to several days.”

Chief Medical Information Officer Matt Dunn, DO, who also directs the hospital’s emergency department, told the news outlet that the process can span from 10 to 15 minutes per prescription. “It’s not inherently part of the new system, but part of double-checking the old system, making sure that data comes into the new system,” he said.

Interim CEO Lee Myles also noted that Memorial Hospital has made additional personnel available to address delays. “We want to meet those needs. The providers and the whole organization is concerned, and people are working ridiculous hours to do that,” he admitted

A representative from MaineHealth, the health system that owns and operates Memorial Hospital, said the latter is making great progress. That said, the hospital itself is urging only those with urgent requests should use a hotline established for prescription refills.

However, not all the problems with fulfilling these requests stemmed from workflow.

“As most prescriptions are now sent directly to pharmacies through the Epic system, there have been some glitches with how the hospital’s system communicates with the pharmacies’ systems, and the hospital has set up a dedicated phone line for pharmacists to call if they are having trouble with a prescription or if necessary information is missing,” Leavitt reported.

According to Memorial Hospital, new patients remain unaffected by the transition to Epic.

“There are always workflow issues (when switching to a new system) because you're used to doing things a certain way, and it can be challenging to learn that on a new system,” said Dunn. “You try to anticipate all these areas ahead, and sometimes after ‘go live,’ you see these issues creep up, and and you start addressing them. That’s sort of what happened in this scenario.”

While the report paints a relatively bleak picture about the Epic implementation, it fails short in acknowledging that the hospital’s health system issued a warning many months earlier about the delays the December 1 Epic go-live was likely to cause at Memorial Hospital

“While there are ample benefits, there will be some downsides to the conversion that may cause inconveniences along the way,” MaineHealth stated in a press release on September 26.

“During the ‘go-live’ period starting December 1st and continuing for the two weeks after, patients may see some delays,” it continued. “Moving to a new medical records system represents a change to the work flow of every employee and every patient interaction. Memorial has invested heavily in training and resources, but there could be potential hiccups as everyone gets up to speed.”

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