With the installation of a new electronic health records system behind it, El Camino Hospital now moves on to trying to reap benefits from the system.

In late November, El Camino completed the installation of a system from Epic, the Verona, Wis.-based vendor of clinical systems. The go-live with the new system went well, says Greg Walton, CIO of the Mountain View, Calif., hospital.

“It seems to be going fine,” Walton said soon after the go-live date. “We came within an hour of our expected activation time. We’ve still have some issues, and we’re not naïve about the fact that we still have some issues. It wasn’t perfect, but it certainly qualifies as very good to excellent.”

El Camino’s move to Epic is significant because of its long history of using electronic health records. It began using the first computerized physician order system in 1971. In the years immediately before the Epic installation, El Camino had been using a best-of-breed approach that fit into its own architecture, with systems that integrated applications from Cerner, McKesson, Siemens and more.

“We went through a full vendor evaluation” in making a decision on a new EHR system, with the finalists including Allscripts and Epic, Walton said. El Camino will privately label its Epic systems as iCare.

Despite its long tradition as a provider using multiple systems, there was broad support for moving to a new integrated system, Walton said. “This was a board-supported decision from the get-go,” he added. “As with every major decision, they clearly saw that it was time for El Camino to evaluate its options. There was no massive pushback to this.”

Moving to Epic will enable El Camino to more easily exchange information with other providers using Epic applications, Walton said. He said about 56 percent of people living in the area around the hospital have their medical records stored on systems from Epic. “We’re focusing on the triple aim and fee for value, and we’re all trying to provide care across the continuum. Really, I don’t know that there’s anything unique about what we’ve done.”

Walton, a long-time health IT veteran, see consolidation in the future among healthcare records systems vendors, but believes that providers must begin to show some return on the investments that have been made in EHR systems, particularly with the subsidies provided in recent years through federal programs to support the meaningful use of clinical systems.

“When will healthcare costs come down?” he asks. “With all the money that we’re spending, is it showing up in some kind of economic result? I’m not sure that we’re having the kind of dialogue around improving the healthcare sector that we need to. We’ve bought a lot of technology, but none of it has helped the U.S. as a nation in getting more people healthier.

“I think technology is a useful tool, but when I look at this as a citizen and as a multi-decade phenomenon, where do we, as a nation, stand with our collective accomplishments with IT?” Walton adds. “I think we need to deliver on all the promise.”

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