On May 1, 2019, the Carris Health clinics (ACMC clinics) will go live with a new electronic health record system called Epic. For over a year staff at Carris Health have been busy preparing to convert their existing electronic health record (EHR) to the Epic system as part of an effort to streamline health data exchange and access for patients and providers.
“This has been a massive undertaking that’s involved training over 1,200 staff at six different facilities and converting more than 54,000 patient appointments into the new Epic EHR,” said Heidi Albrecht, Project Manager and Director of Clinical Systems at Carris Health. “This is the largest Epic clinic implementation project CentraCare has ever done.”
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, more than half of Minnesota’s 146 hospitals and roughly 1,500 clinics use the Epic EHR system. More than 250 million patients across the globe have a current electronic record in Epic.
Rice Memorial Hospital and Carris Health Surgery Center in Willmar have been on CentraCare’s Epic EHR for several years. CentraCare Health is the parent company of Carris Health. With Carris Clinics’ transition to Epic, all Carris and CentraCare records will be together in one place, including medical charts, patient scheduling, registration, billing, lab, imaging and access to the Epic MyChart patient portal. Plans to transition Carris Health Redwood Hospital and Family Practice Medical Center to the Epic EHR system are planned for later in 2019.
“The goal is to provide continuity of care for all patients across all care settings and locations,” said Albrecht.
For the first two weeks of go-live, physicians and advanced practice providers in the clinics will have reduced patient schedules, allowing more time to learn the new system as they write progress notes, review results, and schedule orders in Epic. In addition, hundreds of support staff from Carris and CentraCare have been scheduled throughout the two-week go-live period to provide extra on-site support at the clinics.
Dr. Cindy Firkins Smith, co-CEO of Carris Health, advises that patients may experience longer wait times or find it difficult to schedule an appointment during the initial go-live period.
“There will be a learning curve as our staff begin to use the new system and become accustomed to new processes,” Smith said. “This is a complex system and we are fully committed to a successful implementation. We recognize that initially we’ll have longer wait times than normal and we want to thank everyone in advance for their patience during this transition. Having one integrated EHR and revenue cycle management system builds on our commitment to delivering the best care for our patients.”
With the transition to Epic in May, patients at Carris Clinics will also receive instructions to register for Epic’s patient portal, MyChart. The online portal offers many key features, including online appointment scheduling, medication lists, after visit summaries, and the ability to message your care team.
“Epic provides us with the tools to make the best possible decisions for our patients,” said Smith. “Going forward, utilizing a single, comprehensive health record across our system will advance the integration and delivery of care to our patients.”