An Epic Milestone
By Robin Lord
At 4:45 a.m. on Nov. 1, 2020, Cape Cod Healthcare pulled the switch on a new medical exchange platform. Powered by Epic Systems, the nation’s premier healthcare information systems vendor, the new platform provided a single, interactive, comprehensive health record for Cape Cod Healthcare providers, employees and patients.
Now, one year later, our team is celebrating a successful year with the healthcare platform, which has provided patients with a features-rich electronic health record that is accessible to them and their providers.
“We have accomplished a significant amount in our first year and have demonstrated a successful implementation and adoption,” Cape Cod Healthcare President and CEO Michael Lauf told our physicians and employees on last Monday’s one-year anniversary.
In CCHC’s last quarterly review with Epic in August, CCHC was among the top 28 percent of all Epic customers in adoption of clinical and financial features of the platform. This earned them an 8 out of 10 in Epic’s Gold Star program.
“The organization has done a remarkable job in adopting it, as evidenced by the 8 stars and the good install credit (from Epic),” said Paul Solverson, Vice President and Chief Information Officer for CCHC. “We did a lot of the right things right and effectively derived value out of it right away.”
The fact that the launch and adoption were accomplished with the specter of COVID-19 looming made its success that much more meaningful, Lauf said.
“Little did we know when we started this effort to move to a new system in early 2018 that we would be initiating it in the middle of a pandemic,” he said. “ While we knew there would be many obstacles in the way of success, we had faith in our talented team of employees, physicians and clinicians and went ahead with our original launch date. We knew it was the right thing to do for our patients, our providers and our community.”
Having a single patient record enables doctors and other providers to have a fuller picture of our patients’ health status, since sharing notes, test results, etc. is now done automatically, in a single system. It is especially important for patients with chronic conditions, since keeping all clinicians on the same page and informed of each other’s conclusions and treatment plans is easier. Having this important information in one place ensures that any changes in patients’ health status, treatments and medications, among other things, are immediately recognized and reconciled.
The first year of Epic saw a variety of achievements and benefits from the new system, including the registration of more than half of all CCHC patients on the MyChart patient portal. This high adoption rate exceeded CCHC’s original goal of 35 percent adoption rate by the end of the first year, which is what the majority of Epic customers experience, said Solverson.
The MyChart portal, among other things, allows patients to:
- Find care and schedule appointments
- View upcoming and past appointments
- Manage medications, including refills
- Get test results
- Pay a bill
- Message clinical care teams
MyChart allows patients to drive the process of connecting with their physician’s office, at a time and place convenient to them, Solverson said.
There are currently more than 110,000 CCHC patients registered on MyChart and they have logged in 2.9 million times over the past year. In addition, more than 2.6 million medical records have been sent and received among providers on behalf of our patients via the systems Care Everywhere capability.
“What our clinicians realized, initially, was the benefit of having less dependency on integration between different systems and 30-plus applications that were replaced by one system—Epic,” said Darlene Vendittelli, Executive Director of Information Systems for CCHC. “That translates into a more streamlined experience for patients.”
Crucial COVID-19 Care
The Epic system has been especially crucial during the pandemic, Solverson said. COVID-19 pushed healthcare systems to their limit, and the ability to provide continuity of patient care became increasingly vital. The MyChart portal and Epic’s “Care Everywhere” interoperability platform has been particularly important for patients and providers, he said.
“Having access to people’s updated records in an instant is a huge improvement,” Solverson told Cape Cod Health News shortly after the Epic launch last year. “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 who has authorized its release.”
MyChart and Epic scheduling systems were extremely helpful in supporting COVID-19 testing and then when the COVID-19 vaccination became available. Patients were clamoring to get appointments and quick results at the CCHC and Barnstable County vaccination sites last winter and spring.
“It was instrumental in helping to get timely appointments scheduled for vaccines and testing and for folks to see results,” said Vendittelli. “To manage and see all of that with MyChart was huge. People were looking for a remote solution like that.”
The Epic system also allowed CCHC to open a vaccine scheduling site on its website for those who had not yet signed up for MyChart. The same online system is now being used to schedule flu vaccine appointments for patients and residents.
Another Epic feature, Epic Care Link, provides community physicians who are not using the Epic platform to have access to their patients’ CCHC-based information, like lab results and patient visits. The feature is also used by local community health centers.
“It’s helping speed up and improve results reporting, discharge summaries, notifications to providers—whether you’re a primary care or a specialist, or referring or consulting,” Solverson said.
In the next year, Solverson and the CCHC IT team will be working to further expand use of MyChart, Epic Care Link, and connect independent physician offices in the community who are not on the Epic system.