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In throes of pandemic, Ballad Health deploys successful launch of Epic platform systemwide

Monday, November 2, 2020

In throes of pandemic, Ballad Health deploys successful launch of Epic platform systemwide

Health system named ‘Most Wired’ for second consecutive year for digital transformation efforts

A years-long endeavor to adopt a common, interoperable health technology for all of Ballad Health’s merged hospitals and care sites is now complete.

Ballad Health’s massive technology conversion was completed – successfully – on Thursday, Oct. 1.

With Epic as the single technology platform for Ballad Health, patient data will be controlled by patients and their providers, and it will be more secure than ever before. New services will be available to patients, including real-time scheduling, access to health information, transparency in pricing and, most importantly, better coordination between healthcare providers, regardless of where the providers are or what data systems they use.

“Having a single electronic health record system is truly a game changer for Ballad Health and our patients. It allows for better interoperability, which will lead to enhanced quality of care for our patients,” said Pam Austin, Ballad Health’s chief information officer.

“Now, our providers — regardless of where they are located — will be able to collaborate more efficiently and effectively to provide care to their patients, and this new system empowers our patients by providing them easier access to their health records.”

As one of America’s leading integrated healthcare systems, serving a region the size of New Hampshire, implementing a common technology platform has been a key priority for Ballad Health.

Benefits of this conversion include:

  • Real-time and transparent coordination between physicians who are caring for a patient, which helps providers seamlessly collaborate across specialties, reducing duplicate testing and preventing adverse outcomes
  • Implementation of evidence-based and best practices across the care continuum
  • Enhanced research and population health initiatives using powerful, region-wide data
  • Enhanced opportunity to deploy long-term initiatives to reduce the cost of healthcare and improve the health of the region

Dr. Kent Wright, medical director of Johnson City Medical Center’s emergency department, said Epic has brought instant access to information that is critical to efficient care in emergent cases.

“I’ve been able to view prior EKGs when making treatment decisions for patients and see the results of prior culture and sensitivity testing, helping guide our choice of antibiotics,” he said. “When patients require care on the inpatient wards, our inpatient teams can very easily review my notes – now they are legible! – and review the labs and diagnostic imaging results we’ve collected in the emergency department.

“If you can’t communicate, you can’t collaborate, and Epic is absolutely the best tool I’ve ever used to communicate with others helping to care for our patients.”

The three-year journey to this successful conversion was made infinitely more challenging by the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which limited the ability of technology partners to be on-site in the six months leading up to the conversion – a process requiring more than 6,000 Ballad Health team members to be trained.

“It is so exciting to see Ballad Health come together on Epic as their enterprise-wide electronic health record,” said Gerri Biodrowski, implementation executive at Epic.

“Ballad Health’s culture of leadership, teamwork and commitment to improving patient care is what makes these projects rewarding and successful. We are very proud to be part of what Ballad Health has already achieved with Epic and in the future. We look forward to their ongoing success.”

Epic was not the only technology conversion undertaken during this time. While planning and executing on the Epic conversion, Ballad Health also implemented two parallel underlying networks – establishing two parallel data centers, and Ballad Health converted all its computers to Windows 10 prior to going live with Epic. In addition to software upgrades, this process included replacing approximately 10,000 computers throughout the Ballad Health system.

“This was a massive endeavor for a health system to take on at one time,” said Ballad Health Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan Levine. “The timetable was aggressive, and to a large degree, our team was on its own as we progressed without the typical on-the-ground support you’d expect for projects of this magnitude, due to the pandemic. The effort by our team members has been heroic, but that is no surprise to anyone who knows the heart of Ballad Health.”

In June 2018, the board of directors of Ballad Health approved the plan to invest approximately $200 million into the conversion to Epic, which has been rated the No. 1 overall software suite by KLAS Research, the most prominent healthcare information technology rating entity. Additionally, Epic is the No. 1-rated Health Information Exchange, underscoring Ballad Health’s investment into interoperable health information exchanges.

Other health systems currently using Epic include Cleveland Clinic, Duke University Health System, Geisinger Health System, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Kaiser Permanente, Mayo Clinic, Mercy Health, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Wake Forest Baptist Health.

Most Wired recognition

In October, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) announced Ballad Health had earned the 2020 CHIME Digital Health Most Wired recognition. This recognition means Ballad Health helps lead strategies to use data meaningfully to achieve clinical and efficiency outcomes.

Digital transformation initiative

“Ballad Health’s conversion to Epic is just the first step in our digital transformation journey,” said Taylor Hamilton, Ballad Health’s Chief Consumer Officer. “Combined with several other efforts, we want to make Ballad Health the trusted source for health information and the easiest place for our community to access the right care when and how they need it. This means finding the right doctor and scheduling virtual or face-to-face appointments online, registering and checking in with the click of a button, wayfinding services that tell patients the right place to park and guides them to and through the facility and bill payment services that are easy, convenient and accurate.

“This effort means unparalleled transparency in predictability of cost for patients and powerful new connectivity for the many providers who care for our patients. This is a huge step in our effort to help our communities become and remain healthier than ever.”

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