Vanderbilt readies for transition to unified Epic software platform

Training on the new system kicked off in early August and will continue until the planned go-live transition on November 2.

With a little more than two months left until Vanderbilt University Medical Center goes live with its new Epic software platform, the Nashville-based healthcare provider is poised to create a more integrated clinical, administrative and billing infrastructure to better serve patients.

One of the largest projects in its history, the organization is taking a unified approach to health IT with a range of applications from Epic that will replace some of VUMC’s own internally developed systems—including the StarPanel electronic health record—in an effort to more seamlessly deliver care and improve the patient experience.

On November 2, VUMC plans to switch to Epic’s software for medical record-keeping and clinic workflow, ordering of tests and treatments in hospitals and clinics, hospital scheduling and admissions, nursing documentation, medical management of surgical patients, outpatient prescribing, medication administration, non-retail pharmacy management, as well as hospital billing.

VUMC-CROP.jpgAccording to Jeff Balser, MD, president and CEO of VUMC, the platform—called eStar—is composed of 25 different modules of Epic software, which will serve as the backbone for a new IT ecosystem.

“Through eStar, we wanted to lay the right foundation for the future, a system that lets us interact with broad geographies, diverse care settings and patients using a range of devices, from laptops to iWatches,” Balser told an audience at VUMC’s Summer 2017 Leadership Assembly, which was held last week.

Nonetheless, “this is not a software replacement; this is a culture exercise,” he emphasized.

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As part of the eStar implementation, VUMC’s patient portal—My Health at Vanderbilt—is being upgraded with a new user interface, enhanced features and additional functionality.

“At ‘go live,’ we’re going to have four of our major clinics—Internal Medicine/Primary Care, Women’s Health, Orthopaedics and the Eye Institute—market the use of My Health at Vanderbilt to schedule return appointments,” Balser said. “While this will soon be available for all clinics, we are going to market these four initially because they have high utilization of My Health. After go live, we will schedule for all other areas to begin marketing the opportunity to make return appointments online.”

What makes VUMC’s eStar implementation, called EpicLeap, a bit nerve-wracking is the fact that the transition is not phased in over time but is expected to begin all at once on November 2. The “big bang” approach to the cutover is meant to avoid a prolonged learning curve for staff with different training phases and to ensure that all of VUMC is operating on eStar before early 2018, when its current clinical system—McKesson’s Horizon clinical suite—will no longer be supported by the vendor.

The massive training initiative on the new system kicked off in early August and will continues through the go-live to get 17,000 employees familiar with the new technology. In addition, regular go-live readiness assessment exercises have been conducted over the past five months, setting the stage for what VUMC officials hope will be a smooth launch.

“Our Epic transformation is an enormous undertaking, and there has been a great deal of planning and a great deal of work,” said C. Wright Pinson, MD, VUMC’s deputy CEO and chief health system officer. “How Epic comes off is crucial because it will support our mission for years to come. It will be a defining moment for us.”

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