- Tomah Memorial Hospital (TMH) in Wisconsin will go live with its Epic EHR replacement on October 1 to improve clinical efficiency after nearly two years of planning.
TMH officials stated the nearly $3-million EHR replacement process will optimize patient care delivery at the hospital and improve daily clinical and administrative operations. Hospital and IT staff are confident the decision to convert to an Epic system will pay off.
“Epic is the number one software solution for an electronic health record; it has won numerous awards and used by more than 50 percent of hospitals across the nation,” said TMH Information Systems Director LaVonne Smith told the Tomah Journal. “This represents a major investment and change for our organization.”
The Epic EHR will aggregate patient information including demographic information, progress notes, medications, vital signs, past medical history, immunizations, lab test data, and radiology reports into a single repository.
“It’s in the best interest for our community hospital to make the change because it’s an electronic software that will allow us to communicate across different departments, so as patients come into our emergency room, for example, information will flow to other areas that we care for our patients,” said Smith.
Switching to an Epic EHR will also enable TMH to improve health data exchange with the Gunderson Health System and the Mayo Franciscan Health System, which both use Epic systems and operate clinics in Tomah. Using similar EHR platforms will improve interoperability among all three area facilities.
“With both clinics having Epic, it seemed like the right thing to do,” Smith explained. “We can leverage the sharing of information from the clinic to the hospital, from the hospital to the clinic and those providers using the Epic software.”
Presently, more than 205,000 physicians across the country use an Epic system and over 150 million patients have a medical record with the health IT company.
“We’re excited about the conversion,” said TMH Physician Assistant Jerry Fushianes, PAC. “This is going to give us an opportunity to have seamless integration across departments and across platforms so we can share patient information better and provide excellent care.”
More than 300 TMH hospital staff have been training with the Epic system since June to prepare for the implementation process.
“Over the past four months, we have had over 300 employees spend countless hours completing online training, in-classroom training as well as spending time in an open lab,” said TMH Clinical Systems Analyst Heather Laudon. “The staff that has gone through the training have been across our entire organization everyone from our patient registration, scheduling and billing to our ancillary services in the lab and imaging, plus clinical front-line staff, which includes our nurses and providers.”
TMH hospital classrooms were converted into training labs equipped with individual computer stations. Additionally, staff were administered Epic buttons to inform patients and hospital visitors of the switch.
Laudon hopes the EHR replacement will be seamless for patients, but stated daily activities including patient registration will take longer while staff members adjust to the new system.
“The amount of time, effort, and dedication that our staff has invested in the training process over the last few months should ensure a seamless transition for our patients October first," Laudon said.
The new Epic EHR will offer patients additional features previously unavailable including online follow-up instructions and appointments. These features will be added toward the end of 2017.