Patients benefitting from new Epic system
Cape Cod Healthcare Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Paul Solverson had little doubt that moving forward with the rollout of the Epic System during a pandemic was the right move.
COVID-19 has pushed healthcare organizations to their limit and the ability to provide continuity of patient care has become increasingly vital. Epic’s Care Everywhere information exchange platform and its MyChart patient portal are key components.
Since going live on November 1, 2020, the exchange of patient data through the Care Everywhere interoperability platform has averaged about 9,000 records each workday, according to Solverson. This means that essential patient health information about such things as medications, problem history, allergies, and infections, is finally reaching a larger number of clinicians who need it. And with the strains of COVID-19, having comprehensive health histories easily at their fingertips is needed now more than ever.
Care Everywhere has made a big difference in the Emergency Department and in acute care, said Solverson.
“Having access to people’s updated records in an instant is a huge improvement,” he said. “And this is a two-sided conversation, because it’s not just us receiving information, but we’re also sending other providers information on a patient we have who have authorized its release.”
Cape Cod Healthcare’s (CCHC) activity is part of a record period of growth for Epic Systems. According to a recent press release, Epic Systems’ customer network shared more than 221 million patient records between them in a month, an increase of 40 percent year over year. This is likely fueled by COVID-19 and the need to provide total health histories, as patients are treated by multiple specialists or transferred to different hospitals.
Epic installations have also accelerated during the pandemic, with more than 190 health systems worldwide going live with the technology in the second half of the year. From September through the end of December, the company anticipates transitioning more than 123,000 physicians, nurses and support staff to Epic or new applications within the system.
Being part of the largest interoperable healthcare network of Epic users has its benefits, which was among the main reasons CCHC chose Epic Systems.
“Epic system controls about 70 percent of the market and we can exchange information with all other Epic clients,” said Solverson. “Early returns and early feedback has been very positive. While well over half of the exchanges are made between Epic Systems customers, we are also exchanging with non-Epic systems and networks as well. There is a wealth of information available through these exchanges and it is a big improvement.”
Prior to installation, exchanges of patient data were haphazard and relied primarily on the patient to make it happen, especially if they received care off Cape. It was a tedious, manual process that was not very customer friendly or timely.
“I can tell you that with a patient’s consent, most of this now happens automatically. It’s a huge step forward,” said Solverson. “As it was mostly incumbent on the patient to share their records, a good portion of what we are now exchanging was never shared before.”
One of the biggest benefits to the new system is being able to connect directly to independent medical practices and community health clinics within our community, like Outer Cape Health.
“Outer Cape has had a really positive response,” he said. “It’s helping speed up and improve results reposting, discharge summaries, notifications to providers, whether you’re a primary care or a specialist, or referring or consulting. It’s helping to expedite all of that and more.”
Implementation of Epic’s MyChart patient portal is another key component to engaging with patients and sharing information electronically, said Solverson.
“There’s been a strong response with over 23,000 patients having already signed up in the first seven weeks since going live, a figure that exceeds the Epic average for new implementations.”
This trend is good news as COVID testing and eventual vaccine distribution will be made easier for patients to manage using the patient portal.
“Early returns on sign-ups and sign-ins are very encouraging.,” said Solverson. “The average person who has signed up for MyChart has used it at least four times. That’s almost 80,000 sign-ins in the first six weeks.
“We are getting out of it what we hoped we would get out of it, and more, including from an interoperability and MyChart patient portal perspective. It’s very good news.”