Columbia University docs hire consultant to help with EHR project

NEW YORK – Columbia University Medical Center's physician group, the Faculty Practice Organization of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, has signed a management and consulting agreement with Greencastle Consulting to help with its planned roll-out of electronic health records.

Greencastle, based in Malvern, Pa., is a project management and consulting services firm specializing in healthcare IT.

As announced in September, the Columbia FPO will implement TouchWorks EHR software from Chicago-based Allscripts. In addition to its 1,200 member physicians, the technology will eventually serve 1,000 community physicians through a Columbia-sponsored arrangement still under development.

Under the new agreement, Greencastle will manage the EHR roll-out, ensure physician adoption of the technology, and guide the process of system integration.

"EHRs are just now getting to the point where they're able to transform healthcare," said Michael Duncan, chief executive officer of the Columbia FPO. "But this is a complicated technology. Our size makes the implementation even more challenging. We needed Greencastle's project management expertise to stay on course and help make sure we end up with a product that the vast majority of physicians actually use - and are glad using."

The Columbia FPO will be transitioning to the electronic system from paper-based records. Greencastle will also manage the integration of TouchWorks EHR with Columbia's existing GE Healthcare practice management system and the Eclipsys inpatient EHR at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

"It's a privilege to work with such a prestigious organization, especially on a project with so much potential to improve clinical processes," said Mark Stabile, a senior partner at Greencastle.

Greencastle performed a readiness assessment for the Columbia FPO this past summer.

"We knew we were not ready," said Duncan. "But we didn't know in which specific areas or what we needed to do. Based on focus groups, online surveys, and other work, Greencastle presented 15 concrete dimensions that needed attention. That information helped us get to the point where we know roll-out will go smoothly."

After a preparation phase, the Columbia FPO will spend 2008 working with test systems in place at four sites. In early 2009, those test sites will go live, followed by a 24-month, department-by-department implementation period.

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