Desert AIDS Project is making a big step forward in how it electronically maintains patient medical records with Epic, which is used by the majority of U.S. News & World Report’s top-ranked hospitals and medical schools.
The switch from Greenway, D.A.P.’s current electronic health records (EHR) management tool, to Epic is designed to not only automate patient information but also improve patient care, privacy, and safety. It also aligns D.A.P. with a wave of hospitals and clinics nationwide using Epic’s electronic health information system.
D.A.P adopted Epic as its new EHR so our clinical providers can quickly record treatment given here, while also monitoring procedures, tests, prescriptions, and more that our patients receive at other hospitals and clinics, says Physician Assistant Gennady “Henry” Nosovitsky. Henry should know … because he is now an “Epic Super User” since he attended training as D.A.P.’s provider representative in the adoption and implementation of the new system.
Patients will also be able to access their medical records and check past and upcoming appointments, see lab results, get visit summaries, see prescriptions, and eventually send messages to the health center using an Epic smartphone application (better known to all of us now as an “app”) called MyChart.
“Most people have smartphones,” Henry says. “And anybody, including our patients who’re generally 50 and older, can use this app. I mean … who doesn’t love a great app that does what it says it’s going to do?”
Since 60% of providers nationwide are using Epic, D.A.P. will be linked in to a network that includes Kaiser Permanente medical clinics, Loma Linda University Medical Center, University of California San Diego Medical Center, the Cleveland Clinic, Northwestern Memorial Health Care, and university hospitals throughout the country.
“Healthcare providers, who have a patient’s consent, can access any place the patient was seen if that facility uses Epic,” Henry says, adding that HIPAA requirements for privacy and security are maintained. “For example, if a patient went to Loma Linda for a bronchoscopy and had a second opinion at UCSD, we’d have to call Loma Linda and UCSD to get their records on our current system. That could take days if not more. With Epic, I can access both Loma Linda and UCSD. That makes continuity of care much easier, and, at times, lifesaving.”
Joining Epic required a healthy financial investment for D.A.P. with an intense training and transition phase due to its demands for accuracy and security. “Staff members with access to Epic began 10 – 16 hours of training in mid-March,” says Karynsue Rose-Thomas, who directs Informatics and Compliance Management at D.A.P. “And we will transition to Epic during April, May, and June. We will provide rest and relaxation areas for staff to unwind once the rollout ramps up.”
The change-over also presents challenges that will affect the patient experience. Our providers will see fewer patients during the transition. Appointments will last longer – about an hour – so there will be longer wait times between appointments during the transition period. Taking this extra time with patients will give providers the opportunity to ensure that the new Epic electronic health record is used properly and yields accurate results.
Patients in the Medical Clinic and The DOCK can get a streamlined version of MyChart after the change-over. They will be told how to sign up for the app in mid-April. They will be able to:
• View labs and test results
• Keep track of current medication lists
• Read immunization records
• Receive an after-visit summary of each appointment
In the end, D.A.P. staffers said changing to Epic is worth the effort.
“It’s geared to making sure everything is done correctly to minimize inaccuracies,” says Mario Zuniga, Health Information Management coordinator. “It’s better for the clients because it’s easier for us to get them what they need.”