Despite global pandemic, Ballad Health successfully launches Epic electronic health records system in its outpatient clinics; progresses toward region’s most extensive interoperable technology platform
New platform will provide patients and their doctors with unprecedented new options for access, care and security of patient records
On Monday, June 1, Ballad Health reached a new milestone in its journey to create a common and interoperable health technology platform for all the region’s hospitals and Ballad Health care sites. This system will provide unprecedented access for patients and their doctors, regardless of their affiliation with Ballad Health.
Despite an aggressive timetable, made more challenging by the global pandemic limiting access to its integration partners to virtual support, the health system launched the sophisticated Epic electronic health records (EHR) system in physician practices that had been part of legacy Mountain States Health Alliance, joining legacy Wellmont Health System facilities, which have utilized Epic since 2014. The Epic ambulatory launch was also part of larger Ballad Health overhaul to upgrade its computing infrastructure to improve speed, reliability and security. In the past six months, the health system has combined its two legacy networks, and launched a major project to replace 10,000 computers and convert the entire system to Windows 10.
“This is a significant achievement – not just for our clinics and ancillary services, but for all of Ballad Health,” said Alan Levine, chairman and chief executive officer of Ballad Health. “With Epic now live in most of our Ballad Health Medical Associates practices, we’re one – major – step closer to bringing our health system onto a single patient record platform.
“This has been a long time coming, and many people have put in an incredible amount of work to plan, prepare and execute,” said Barbara Allen, Chair of the Board of Directors Information Technology Committee. “This major investment by the Board will make our health system even better. Our patients and communities will benefit from industry-leading technology providing incredible power to consumers to have more control over their health care and unprecedented access to their care teams.”
Patients across the region will benefit from the transition – Epic offers an online patient portal called MyChart, which enables patients to take an active role in their health by allowing them to view test results, request prescription refills, manage appointments and message their provider from a computer or smartphone. For team members, Epic increases efficiency by streamlining the process of scheduling, billing and recording details of an office visit.
Epic also has robust and secure health information sharing capabilities that will allow patients, at their discretion, to make their electronic health records accessible to their chosen health care providers, whether they are local or located in another part of the country. Patient safety is increased when health records can be viewed and managed by every provider involved in care, and patient costs are lowered when duplicate tests no longer need to be ordered simply because a physician didn’t have the most recent information available.
“When Ballad Health launched in 2018, we knew having a single EHR would be crucial for our patients’ safety, efficiency and convenience,” said Pam Austin, Ballad Health’s chief information officer. “We are committed to enhancing care for the communities we serve, and with the launch in the physician practices, our care teams – regardless of their legacy health system – will be able to collaborate more effectively to provide the care patients need.
“Most importantly, this transition will allow for better interoperability throughout the Appalachian Highlands, benefiting patients through a seamless, integrated approach.”
Based in Verona, Wis., Epic is consistently ranked among the highest rated electronic health record system in multiple categories, according to KLAS Ratings. Epic is rated best in class for large hospitals, ambulatory electronic medical records, patient accounting and billing, value-based care patient portals, EMR Interoperatibility, laboratory and in several other categories of technology.
“Many of our team members who are familiar with the Epic system tout it as being intuitive and beneficial for the overall experience for patients and providers alike,” Austin said. “Epic is the No. 1 electronic medical record system in the United States, and we’re extremely proud to offer it to our communities – this is a major undertaking that will be well-worth the effort.”
Currently, 90% of medical students and residents are educated on the Epic system. And, because the system is so ubiquitous in hospitals and healthcare organizations, many providers and team members who join Ballad Health are already familiar and comfortable with the system.
“Overall, from our perspective at Epic, this has been a very smooth, successful go-live and initiation – one of the best I’ve ever taken part in, even though my team and I were limited to working remotely from Wisconsin due to the pandemic,” said Gerri Biodrowski, implementation services, Epic. “We are very proud of all that Ballad Health has accomplished with this go-live – it truly has been a team effort and so rewarding to see the operational engagement and swift adoption of the new system.”
On Oct. 1, Epic will become the EHR system for the remainder of Ballad Health’s hospitals – it’s already utilized at Holston Valley Medical Center, Bristol Regional Medical Center, Greeneville Community Hospital, Hawkins County Memorial Hospital, Lonesome Pine Hospital, Unicoi County Hospital, Mountain View Regional Hospital and Hancock County Hospital.
Learn more about the Epic system for Ballad Health patients, or to make an account.