In so doing, AHN has become the newest client of
The fully integrated health records system -- the first of its kind in
And when a health system has been losing money and patients for so long, as has been case with
The computer system upgrade was quickly identified as one of "a handful of big areas where there are opportunities for improvement," she said. The hardware and server installation is already underway.
AHN finds itself in good company --
As a result, Epic has quietly and quickly emerged the top rival for
Its reputation has grown as health systems have abandoned the practice of installing "best-in-breed" systems -- the best billing software, the best electronic medical record system, the best inpatient workflow software -- and forcing them to communicate with each other. Instead, health systems are now keen on interoperability, and Epic delivers that in a "seamless" package. It was the first health IT firm to figure out how to do so, giving it an instant leg up on its competitors.
It's "the holy grail of what organizations are trying to do," said
Epic's system needs a lot of on-site hardware and infrastructure, and as a result is more expensive to install than competitors' systems, but that hasn't deterred high-profile clients from buying whole-system products from Epic, which reported
"It's very costly,"
And those systems are varied. AHN was built over two years through a series of shotgun marriages --
Each often has its own clinical, inpatient, outpatient and revenue-cycle systems, which have been cobbled together and forced to "talk" with each other in order to share data. (UPMC, for example, uses
"Every time you have to create an interface [between systems and providers], it becomes a barrier," said
If a specialist wants to track down a patient's medical records from a primary care doctor elsewhere in the system, phone calls are made, charts are exchanged. Prescriptions are issued via one system, bills are sent out via another, scheduling on another, radiology on yet another.
It's less efficient than it could and should be, Dr. Farah said.
"As much as we can, we are trying to establish a system that allows us to have all this at our fingertips," he said.
Streamlining how health professionals communicate, schedule patients and make orders is "just some of the basic blocking and tackling" that is common at other hospitals, but has been missing at WPAHS, said
"It's been an organization that just hasn't had the disciplined leadership" over the last several years, making such big-picture projects harder to carry out.
In charge of the implementation of this project is AHN's chief information officer,
"We're a little bit behind on this. But it really is a huge advantage for us," she said. Being late to the game means a lot of the kinks have been worked out, and best practices have been established, at other hospital systems, Ms. Dailey said.
Professionals at AHN will have input as to the final look and function of the system. Already, working groups of nurses, physicians, pharmacists and others are meeting, or will be soon doing so, to discuss the new system, Ms. Dailey said. Higher-level design sessions start in January.
"It is so important for everybody to be on the same page," she said. The goal is a final product that "rethinks the way we work as a health system, [around] our patient," a system that removes health care from its separate silos and better aligns among the dozens of health professionals who might treat a patient over the course of a year, or even during a single hospital stay.
Those health professionals are often familiar with Epic, which was initially best known for its ambulatory -- that is, outpatient -- software suite. "The doctors bring the patients," explained
Once Epic developed the rest of its product lines -- inpatient, revenue cycle, and so on -- it already had built-in credibility with doctors and was an easy sell at large hospital systems,
Eventually, AHN's Epic health records system will be able to communicate with the health information exchange being developed by
AHN's hospitals and clinics will receive the Epic technology over several years. The first to have it fully installed will be Highmark's
(c)2013 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at www.post-gazette.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services