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2013-06-07 – Olympic Medical Center: Progress made with Epic EHR

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Olympic Medical Center has made a “ton of progress” since converting to an all-digital record-keeping system a month ago, hospital officials said. But Eric Lewis, chief executive officer, told OMC commissioners Wednesday that there is “still a lot of work to do.”

OMC went live with a state-of-the-art electronic health record system called Epic at 5 a.m. May 4. The public hospital district invested about $10 million in the project and spent more than a year preparing for it.

“Epic is a very complex system,” Lewis said. “It’s kind of like going from a landline to an iPhone, all at once.”

The system has enabled doctors throughout the region to access an OMC patient’s medical charts in real time. Most hospitals in the state — including OMC affiliate Swedish Medical Center and its partner, Providence Health & Services — already are using Epic. Hospitals across the country are converting from paper and unconnected computer systems to connected systems such as Epic.

“Having one record brings a lot of complexity and a lot of things that can go wrong,” Lewis said.

One of the biggest issue so far has been getting Epic to interface with lab equipment, which has led to longer patient wait times.

“To get blood draws or other things, it can take one or two hours at times,” Lewis said. “So it’s been disappointing, but it’s something that we are working on, and our team is working on it today and every day until it’s fixed.”

Other early hiccups include slow log-in speeds and a backlog of support tickets with Providence, OMC’s Epic vendor.

“I think we’ve made huge advances in dealing with technical issues and addressing and identifying problems,” Lewis said. “We’ve closed a lot of tickets and resolved a lot of issues. Most of our departments have really moved forward quickly.”

Federal incentives

OMC will receive $7.5 million in federal incentives over the next four years because of the switch. Hospitals that fail to achieve a “meaningful use” of a certified electronic health record system will lose a portion of their Medicare reimbursement beginning in 2015.

“The good news for me, the one thing I’m most impressed about, was how our employees and medical staff stepped up to the challenge,” Lewis said.

Dr. Rebecca Corley, chief physician officer, added: “This really has been a team sport for the organization. I think it’s really pulled together a lot of individuals who might not normally work together every single day. We’ve still got a ways to go to be completely proficient in it, but each week, it gets better.”

Corley said the consensus among medical providers is that Epic is superior to Centricity, the hospital’s old computer system. “It’s more complex than Centricity, which is both good and bad, but the more you use it, the more it makes sense to you,” Corley said.

Other hospitals

Jefferson Healthcare plans to go live with Epic on June 15. Forks Community Hospital has no plans to switch, but the critical-access hospital already is receiving meaningful-use payments because it has newer modules of certified systems.

OMC officials will spend the next month improving the Epic billing process and the next two months addressing lab issues.

“There’s a lot of work left,” Lewis said. “It’s a daily focus, and it can consume your whole day before you know it.”

June 18, 2013