Epic Clinical Information System Expanding From Hospitals Into Baptist Health Clinics

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Baptist Health is making a big investment to improve patient care in Arkansas by expanding the successful Epic clinical information system that launched in its hospitals four years ago into all affiliated physician clinics, specialty clinics, and rural health clinics.

This transformation to Epic in the clinics will allow for the entire Baptist Health system to have a single platform for the electronic health record across points of care and provide a seamless transition of patient information from one area of health care to the next.

It is another example of how Baptist Health continues to change the way health care is delivered in Arkansas in an effort to improve the health of the state.

“One of the strategic focuses of our system is caring for the population of the state, and making this move to have one health record across all access points should be a focal point in continuing to enhance that care for the population,” said Will Rusher, vice president of Practice Plus and CEO of Arkansas Health Group.

Converting Practice Plus and Arkansas Health Group physician clinics, hospital-based clinics such as Arkansas Cardiology, and all of Baptist Health’s rural health clinics from the NextGen system that is currently used to Epic will have multiple benefits to patients as well as the physicians and clinicians who care for them.

“Baptist Health caregivers are going to have access to all this information about the patient in one place, and that’s going to make a huge difference,” said David House, vice president of Information Systems.

“For example, if a patient comes into the emergency room and was previously at a clinic running Epic, the ER personnel will be able to see that information and possibly know exactly what is going on with that patient in a life-threatening situation,” House said.

By extending Epic into clinics, Baptist Health will positively impact patient safety, improve population health and care coordination, reduce duplicate tests, leverage best practices, and enhance patient and provider satisfaction.

“What we know about Epic is that it’s an improved product over what we have now,” said Dr. William Hawkins, the physician champion for the Epic conversion in clinics. “It’s more intuitive, has a smoother workflow, and is a more stable platform.”

“Safety will be the biggest thing for patients. Their medical history, allergies, and medication will cross all areas of care, so there will be fewer errors in transition,” Hawkins said.

Patients will benefit throughout their continuum of care by having one patient record accessible to all caregivers at every stop in the Baptist Health system, which will result in more seamless handoffs from clinic to hospital and vice versa to boost outcomes and efficiencies, which ultimately will mean more quality and affordable care.

“The way we are structured today from a technology standpoint with one system for the hospitals and one system for the clinics, the space between those two areas is fragmented and expensive,” House said.

“For example, a physician office with Epic will no longer have to fax orders to the hospital. Instead, the hospital will be able to get those orders directly from them. Some clinics such as the transplant center and sleep center are currently using both Epic and NextGen, and that means in those areas that they’re having to re-key data and having to keep patients in sync across two systems. All that will go away under Epic,” House said.

“There are a lot of efficiencies about being on one platform. This is a really big strategic part of being a true health system instead of a hospital company and a physician services company,” House said.

Rusher said the new system will reduce the chance of duplicative lab work being ordered by giving all health-care providers immediate access to recent tests and results, and it will generally provide a more efficient system with one database.

“It’s not necessarily an efficiency that allows the doctors to see more patients in a day, but it certainly is an efficiency in the information they have access to and can review while providing care to our patients,” Rusher said.

“From a system perspective, there are a lot of benefits in that our IT staff are going to support one product and not have to negotiate upgrade times or priorities. Everybody will be trained on one product, and it will eliminate duplicative costs of running two systems,” he said.

A fully integrated system will also improve processes for registration, scheduling, and billing for clinics.

“Going live with Epic in the hospitals to have one integrated product that didn’t require separate systems for pharmacy and revenue cycle really allowed us to move a patient all the way through the hospital system under one platform, and this is an extension of that strategy out into the clinics and physicians offices,” said House.

“This extends the same power of having one patient database where you can see the patient’s complete record, and it will allow the patient and Baptist Health to see what is going on with that patient across both the clinics and the hospital,” House said.

Additionally, having Epic in the clinics will provide patients with more power to see all of their results in one place rather than figuring out two different patient portals to access information. It also fulfills the expectations of today’s patients who want doctors to share information with other doctors as part of serving their total health-care needs.

“Epic has the ability to provide more ways to interact with patients, specifically through MyChart, which is a bit more functional than other electronic-health-record portals. There will be a lot of ways for patients to interact with their record that haven’t been available to this point,” Hawkins said.

Rusher said the new generation of health-care consumers want to be informed and participate in their care, and the combination of potentially being able to be seen in a primary-care or specialty clinic and then in the hospital and have all those records in one consolidated place as opposed to trying to access three different records should be a satisfier.

“If you really think about it, a patient may go to a hospital much less frequently than a clinic, so their information is a lot more valuable to them as a consumer from the physician office than it is from the hospital just because of frequency,” House added.

The conversion of clinics to Epic will be a thorough and lengthy process that requires a dedicated team of analysts and project builders currently being assembled. About 12 employees have been hired for the team so far.

In addition to physician champion Hawkins, Rob Christian has been appointed as manager of the project, Royce Slayden as the education coordinator, and Dennis Strobel as the overall coordinator.

Work on the new system will begin in the next two months. Validation of the new system is then scheduled to begin in January with training to follow in February. The rollout of the new Epic system for clinics is tentatively scheduled to begin in April 2017.

“We feel like it will be well-received by our clinics and our clinicians in the fact that Epic is highly touted as a strong product, a market leader, and a high investment of the system in this product for our mutual benefit,” Rusher said.

One additional bonus of having Epic in clinics will be the impact it makes on third-party payers such as managed-care plans, Medicare, and Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“We often talk about it fundamentally changing the way we practice, and that could be really misinterpreted. We think it moves us toward what payers consider quality and gives us the ability to practice in the manner that payers perceive quality,” Hawkins said.