HealthEast board approves new EHR

The 184-bed St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood, Minn. is one of four hospitals in the HealthEast system that will be going live with the new EHR in May 2014.

Five-year, $135 million plan for Epic platform

Board members at the St. Paul, Minn.-based HealthEast Care System have unanimously approved a five-year $135 million budget to build a new electronic health record (EHR) system. 

After nearly three months of discussion over vendors, cost of ownership analyses and financial plans, the nonprofit health system  -  composed of 925 beds across four hospitals and some 14 clinics  -  will say 'sayonara' to its seven different EHR systems, which include platforms from Allscripts, eClinicalWorks and McKesson. The announcement to move forward with the plans was made by the board in December. 

Officials say the various systems make for a disjointed and fractured delivery of health information across the hospitals. "There were a number of drivers," said Brian Patty, MD, vice president and chief medical information officer at HealthEast, regarding the decision. "The primary driver was a desire for our system to move from multiple, disparate EHRs...onto one single platform." 

"We've got to do better than having multiple electronic records," said HealthEast president and CEO Kathryn Correia to the Pioneer Press.

After considering six different vendors  -  including Allscripts, McKesson, Siemens, Cerner, Epic and MEDITECH  -  HealthEast has selected an Epic Systems platform to replace all disparate systems.

The decision to implement a single EHR system was expedited when McKesson, HealthEast's current inpatient vendor, announced its decision to move all of its Horizon customers to a new platform. The new platform, according to Patty, didn't meet the group's needs. 

When asked what his experience has been with seven different systems across four hospitals, Patty laughs. It certainly hasn't been a walk in the park, he said. "It's been very difficult caring for a patient across the continuum of care." When there's a different EHR for inpatient, clinics, homecare, cancer care and ER, sharing data across those systems proves a challenge. 

"Even when it's theoretically possible, the vendors oftentimes don't work well together to be able for us to share data from one system to another," Patty added. 

Patty and his IT staff know they have an arduous road ahead before the EHR system goes live May 2014 in the hospitals and November 2014 in the clinics. Referring to the task of implementing a system-wide EHR, Joanne Sunquist, the new CIO at HealthEast told Patty: "It's like running a marathon at a sprinter's pace."

The end goal, however, is expected to make the process all worthwhile.