Vanderbilt EHR to undergo first major upgrade since 2017 go-live

Vanderbilt University Medical Center will implement changes to its Epic electronic health record system on April 7—the most extensive update since it was launched nearly 18 months ago.

The Nashville, Tenn.-based healthcare provider went live in November 2017 with its new eStar platform, comprising 25 different Epic modules, designed to support an integrated clinical, administrative and billing infrastructure.

Also See: Vanderbilt execs say system is ready for transition to Epic platform

Now, VUMC is looking to bring enhanced features and functionality to eStar, which will result in a brief downtime for the system in the early morning hours of April 7 to implement the changes.

“We’re only implementing the changes that will make eStar work even better for us,” says Neal Patel, MD, VUMC’s chief information officer. “While some of the changes that Epic delivered to us are required, most of them were suggestions, and we had to partner with engaged users throughout Vanderbilt to make a quick decision if the possible change was going to be seen as an improvement.”

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Vanderbilt Medical Center Campus photos, summer 2014 ( Daniel Dubois / Vanderbilt University)

Specifically, the upgrades to the system that VUMC is adopting include:

  • A redesign of the “appointment desk” that employees use to schedule patients.
  • Side-by-side screens so clinicians can more easily review the medications newly discharged patients have been prescribed as part of their hospital stay with the medications they are taking at home.
  • New priority settings and color coding for in-system communications so employees can know which messages need immediate attention.
  • An integrated “task bar” so clinicians can quickly place orders, such as tests for blood work or X-rays.

According to VUMC, two of the “most impactful changes” affecting hospital staff are a tool that puts key inpatient information and tasks in one centralized location for nurses, as well as an “Avatar” feature enabling clinicians to better document, identify and review the placement of lines, drains, airways and wounds on patients.

Online training has been provided to the 20,000 employees who use eStar, as well as access to a virtual environment and exercise booklets to practice their new skills before the April 7 launch of the enhanced features and functionality.

“Of the thousands of changes that will debut on eStar on April 7, the majority will not result in significant changes to employees’ experience with the system or the way they perform their work,” states VUMC’s announcement. “Likewise, the impact to Vanderbilt patients will be negligible, though they will see some new features in My Health at Vanderbilt, the online patient portal.”

Nonetheless, VUMC said it will operate command centers during and after the April 7 launch to troubleshoot any issues related to the system changes.

VUMC’s eStar project, called EpicLeap, was the culmination of a two-year implementation effort and represented a dramatic departure for the organization, which has internally developed much of its health IT over the past 25 years, including the StarPanel electronic health record.

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