NORTH CONWAY, NH – After years of planning and months of training, the launch date of December 1st is in sight for Memorial Hospital’s new shared electronic health record system. What will this mean for patients? A single place for all medical records, easier sharing of health records between providers, enhanced patient privacy and fewer paper forms to fill out.
Memorial will be moving away from the three outdated medical records systems currently in use, to Epic, allowing for a single chart that will follow patients at multiple locations. This includes not just Memorial, but throughout the entire MaineHealth organization and beyond. Epic is the preferred electronic medical record system used by more than 250 health care organizations nationwide. To date, over 45 percent of the US population have their medical records located in an Epic system.
The conversion process has touched virtually every employee and provider at the hospital and its practices, involving the design, analysis and now training and implementation of the new system. Hundreds of employees will be trained on its use to allow for a seamless transition from the old system to the new one effective December 1st. There will be dozens of Epic specialists arriving in North Conway for training, support and troubleshooting between now and the two week post “go-live” period.
A key leader in the process is Dr. Matthew Dunn, DO, FACEP, the hospital’s Chief Medical Information Officer, when he’s not serving as the Medical Director of the hospital’s Emergency Department. Dr. Dunn was previously Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) at Glens Falls Hospital where he led a conversion to Epic in 2010. Dr. Dunn stated, “In that conversion, we saw improved coding and billing practices in addition to the benefits impacting patient experience and quality made possible by one patient having one medical record across the facility.” He expects a similar situation at Memorial.
The scale of this multi-million dollar project is immense, but it presents a tremendous opportunity to streamline and standardize care across the entire organization. There are real advantages to an integrated system in terms of continuity and quality of care, by sharing information, avoiding duplication, and enhancing communication among providers and also between provider and patient.
The benefits to the patients are also immense and include:
- One place for health information – information is safely and securely kept in one place, so each provider sees the same record.
- Easier to work together – Providers in different locations can quickly share important information about a patient’s care. This makes it easier for them to work together.
- Privacy safeguards – The security of patient records is critical. Epic allows for the monitoring of the use of the system to ensure it is being used properly, and those who have access to it have been trained to only use the information as allowed by law.
- Fewer forms and clipboard – Patients’ most up-to-date information is in the record instantly, and there is no need to complete duplicate forms.
- No repeated tests and procedures – Having current information in real time means your providers can avoid requesting a test another provider just ordered. That saves time, money and worry.
- Direct access to health information – Starting in January 2019, Memorial will be able to offer health information online using MyChart, a secure patient portal that allows patients to review prescriptions, request new appointments, view health history and communication directly with Memorial providers.
While there are ample benefits, there will be some downsides to the conversion that may cause inconveniences along the way. During the “go-live” period starting December 1st and continuing for the two weeks after, patients may see some delays. Moving to a new medical records system represents a change to the work flow of every employee and every patient interaction. Memorial has invested heavily in training and resources, but there could be potential hiccups as everyone gets up to speed.
One change already starting to roll out are changes to pre-registration and check in. Starting November 3rd, pre-registration calls for appointments will be coming from a pre-registration call center in Westbrook, ME. Patients can expect to see a “207” area code or “MaineHealth” on their caller ID. Patients are encouraged to pay careful attention to these calls and are asked to answer or return these calls to pre-register and confirm their appointments. All local employees currently making pre-registration calls have been welcomed into the centralized check in department for continued patient access duties, so despite these services moving to Westbrook, no jobs were relocated or lost.
Starting this month, Memorial centralized check in for the Operating Room, Imaging and Cardiopulmonary services. October 1st, it will roll out to our Rehabilitative Services, Occupational and Speech Therapies. November 1st it will continue to include Oncology, OB Outpatient Services, & Pre-Operative Testing. Centralized check in is located right at the main entrance of the hospital. Color banners and directional signs will point visitors to the check in location. This only impacts outpatient hospital services, not practices such as Primary Care and Orthopedics. Patients will be reminded if they need to go to centralized check in at the time they receive their pre-registration phone call reminder.
For more information about Memorial Hospital, visit them online at www.memorialhospitalnh.org.
About Memorial Hospital
Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in North Conway, NH, and is a member of the MaineHealth family. Its hospital services include a 24-hour emergency department, surgery center, clinical laboratory, heart health & wellness programs, imaging services, cardiopulmonary care, family birthing center, oncology, chemotherapy and infusion services. Practices include primary care and family medicine, and the Miranda Center for Diabetes, behavioral health services, women's health, and orthopedics. The Merriman House, a 45-bed nursing home specializing in Alzheimer's and other memory disorders, is also located on the hospital campus.