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Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - Valley Health Launches New Electronic Health Record
Nearly three weeks after launching its new electronic health record (EHR), EpicCare, more than 5,000 Valley Health employees and physicians are actively using the integrated system to document patient care.

In the early morning hours of May 31, Valley Health officials gave the go ahead to launch the new system across all six Valley Health hospitals, three urgent care centers, and 16 Valley Physician Enterprise (VPE) practices throughout the region. Phase one of the two-phase “go-live” occurred April 8 when 24 VPE practices, comprising approximately 400 staff members and physicians, began using EpicCare in their outpatient offices.

Through EpicCare, members of a patient’s healthcare team have access to the patient’s health history, including allergies, current medications and test results. Previously, providers had to jump between separate software programs to find the information they needed. EpicCare is a single, streamlined EHR system that integrates patient records, scheduling, billing, pharmacy, radiology and other ancillary systems in one cohesive information technology platform.

“No matter where a patient is in our System, the provider will have all the information in one place. EpicCare allows us to better meet our goals of convenient, effective, and safe care for every patient we see,” says Jim Wiedower, MD, FACS, chief medical information officer at Valley Health. “There are also data-sharing capabilities with other health systems, including Johns Hopkins, University of Virginia, West Virginia University, Inova Health, and University of Maryland.”

Valley Health began the process of transitioning from its former EHR to EpicCare last July after announcing an alliance with Inova Health System in Northern Virginia. According to officials with the Wisconsin-based Epic Systems Corporation, an average implementation takes 16-18 months. Valley Health’s compressed 11-month timeframe was possible through its collaboration with Inova, which implemented the EpicCare EHR in 2013 and has provided valuable support for Valley Health’s undertaking.

In preparation for the “go-live”, more than 5,000 employees and physicians received specialized training at an 18-classroom facility where sessions were held seven days a week. In addition, over 4,300 new medical devices, including monitors, scanners, printers and WOWs (workstations on wheels) were deployed to all Valley Health locations. “Cutover” activities for the go-live included converting more than 20,000 patient appointments from the previous scheduling system into EpicCare and extracting data from more than eight million patient encounters, dating back to the early 1980s, out of the existing electronic system and loading it into EpicCare.

A Command Center with more than 125 employees at 100 workstations has been operating from the Winchester Medical Center Conference Center to resolve technical issues and provide staff support. In addition, some 800 Super Users (individuals who received more extensive EpicCare training) are providing at-the-elbow support to staff and physicians at all Valley Health locations. The Command Center will remain in place until June 27.

“This is a transforming moment for our health system,” said Mark H. Merrill, President and CEO of Valley Health. “Health care has many touch points for information to be added and accessed by caregivers. EpicCare enables those touch points to communicate to one another in a way they never have before go live. This is a phenomenal step for our patients, our staff, providers, affiliated physicians, and our health system.”

During the first week after go-live, as staff worked diligently to gain proficiency with the new system, there were delays pertaining to scheduling and registration, Merrill noted. “Our staff has been on an accelerated learning curve, and they have performed exceptionally well. As they work with the new tools, they are becoming more proficient and delays have been reduced dramatically.”

At Valley Health’s three Urgent Care Centers, where care is provided on a walk-in basis, a “patient experience concierge” is greeting and communicating with patients during EpicCare’s first weeks. After registering, patients may opt to leave and be phoned when a provider is available. The concierge also offers snacks, bottled water, coloring books and crayons to patients and family members.

“My sincere apologies to patients, visitors, and staff who have been frustrated by extended wait times during our first days,” Merrill said. “We appreciate your patience as our staff interacts with the new system, physician offices, and patients to make sure they get necessary information promptly and accurately.”

A powerful component of EpicCare is MyChart, which enables patients to view securely portions of their personal health information and communicate with members of their healthcare team online. Patients may create a free MyChart account to access and review test results, request appointments and prescription renewals, send secure email messages to their healthcare team, and receive reminders for important health screenings such as mammograms or blood pressure checks. For more information on MyChart, visit www.valleyhealthlink.com/mychart.