EHR network in Minnesota to connect 10 healthcare organizations

By Molly Merrill
09:44 AM

About 75 percent of Minnesotans' patient records are online thanks to a user group that has connected eight of the state's largest healthcare organizations and is expected to connect two more organizations within the year.

The eight healthcare organizations are members of the Minnesota Epic User Group (MNEUG). MNEUG's mission is to educate its members on information about medical technology standards, successes and best practices particularly within Epic software products. The MNEUG has established 23 Special Interest Groups to promote education and information sharing across its 10 healthcare organizations, located in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The organizations using the system are:

  1. Allina Hospitals & Clinics
  2. CentraCare Health System
  3. Essentia Health
  4. Fairview Health Services
  5. HealthPartners Clinics and Regions Hospital
  6. Hennepin County Medical Center
  7. North Memorial Health Care
  8. Sanford Health

CentraCare, North Memorial and HCMC conducted a pilot program to test the system last winter, and the eight organizations went online in a phased rollout that was completed this summer.

Grand Forks, N.D.-based Altru Health System, which serves northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota and Minneapolis-based Park Nicollet Health Services will join the EHR network within the year.

The organizations are able to share information through the Care Everywhere software and network, developed by their shared software vendor, Verona, Wis.-based Epic. Patients must consent to each connection between two organizations at each visit in accordance with applicable laws. Physicians report that the ability to access and share patient records quickly and securely enhances the quality and continuity of care for patients.

"As a primary care doctor at Hennepin County Medical Center, this has greatly improved the care I give to my patients," said Kevin Larsen, CMIO, HCMC, and Minnesota Epic User Group board member. "When patients transfer their care to my clinic, or are seen at a hospital or ER in another health system on the network, I can quickly and easily get the information that used to take days or weeks to get from those other sites. This lets me provide much better follow up care. I think it will also reduce costs. With this instant access I don't need to repeat tests that were done at other sites because I can get the results when I need them. My patients have been very pleased with this enhanced care coordination."

Less than 2 percent of healthcare facilities nationally are using fully electronic health records, and only a handful are exchanging health information in this integrated manner, which highlights the uniqueness of the collaboration in Minnesota, said officials.

Physician members of the MNEUG have reported that record exchange enhances the quality and safety of care by reducing the chance for medical errors that occur when information is written down inaccurately or illegibly, or is not available to care providers in a timely manner. They also report that is provides efficiencies such as quick access to patient care documents electronically right in the exam room, and supports clinical decision-making by providing clinicians prompt access to comprehensive, "continuity of care" patient and clinical information when needed.