- The University of Vermont Medical Center recently filed a certificate of need (CON) application seeking approval from the Green Mountain Care Board of a plan to create a unified Epic EHR system across four hospitals in the University of Vermont Health Network.
The advantages of this endeavor are many, according to leaders of the five-hospital health system spanning Vermont and New York. A unified EHR will improve patient care and enable Central Vermont Medical Center, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, Elizabethtown Community Hospital, and UVM Medical Center to share an electronic health record, which these hospitals will license from UVM Medical Center. The new Epic EHR platform will also facilitate everyday administrative tasks, making it easier for patients to make payments, schedule appointments, and view their health records.
In its certification of need application, UVM predicts the total capital expenditures to be made by the medical center to amount to 112.4 million, including $3.1 million in capital interest. While the total cost of the program during the first six years is expected come up to about 151.6 million, adopting the program as a joint effort instead of an independent undertaking per hospital will ultimately save the network $9 million and allow for streamlined network connectivity to boot.
In 2008, UVM Medical Center implemented its Epic EHR system to focus on clinical information that while successful did not have the capabilities to schedule appointments or aid the billing process.
Implementing a connected network with the capacity to properly carry out these administrative functions will help bring UVM Health Network up to par with industry standards through the use of the Epic Connect system. Right now, UVM uses a multitude of sometimes incompatible systems, including Epic for its inpatient and outpatient clinical system, GE for its financial system, and Optum for its operating room department, to name a few.
UVM plans to replace outdated and disparate systems currently in use at four hospitals in the UVM Health Network, some of which are decades old.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 CON application.
A unified EHR would assuage these concerns by including health and clinical information as well as information on registration, billing, scheduling and insurance across the network.
“If a patient needs to go from their primary care provider’s office to a specialist, that specialist would have instant access to the patient’s full record rather than just portions that can be shared electronically today,” said John Brumsted, MD, UVM Health Network President &and CEO and UVM Medical CEO. “There are still times when the medical records are faxed or even hand-delivered by the patient at the appointment. In urgent situations, and especially during an emergency, having immediate access to important information is critical. A unified EHR is foundational to our ability to collaborate fully to provide the highest quality care possible.”
The project will expedite and modernize the exchange of information for the network to optimize patient care not only for hospitals within UVM’s network, but also for non-network hospitals, independent practices, and community providers.
“The UVM Medical Center alone currently exchanges patient health information with these providers via the state’s health information exchange (run by Vermont Information Technology Leaders, or “VITL”), a messaging service through Surescripts that allows the secure exchange of continuity of care documents, and directly through Epic’s record sharing system called Care Everywhere,” UVM’s attorney remarked in the CON request, adding that “the UVM Medical Center alone exchanged over 635,000 pieces of clinical information” over the first 10 months of last year.
UVM Health Network argues that a unified health network will also enhance information security patient privacy as it will no longer need to oversee and fulfill security and privacy standards for a variety of systems through several interfaces and instead only require maintenance of one system.
“This project will significantly improve the ability of our physicians, nurses and other caregivers to provide high-quality care, especially as we move into value-based care,” said Adam Buckley, M.D., chief information officer, UVM Health Network. “It will allow our providers to have immediate access to up-to-date information about a patient anywhere in the network, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of care.”
The project is expected to take more than three years to complete.
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