Skip to content Skip to navigation

Novant Health CIO: Centering the Patient is Key to Stage 7 Recognition

November 7, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints
Novant Health becomes one of only six systems in the country to attain the highest level of EHR use
Dave Garrett

When Dave Garrett, senior vice president and CIO of Novant Health, a four-state integrated network of physician clinics, outpatient facilities, and medical centers, with headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C., first began working on rolling out the health system’s electronic health record (EHR) across its ambulatory group, he estimated that it would be a five-year project.

Yet in only two years’ time, the organization was able to complete implementation of the Verona, Wis.-based Epic EHR system for its 350 physician clinics, accomplishing the goal significantly ahead of schedule and under budget, according to Garrett.

With hard work comes reward, and in October, Novant Health became one of only six systems in the country to attain the highest level of EHR use, receiving the Stage 7 Ambulatory Award from HIMSS Analytics, the research arm of the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

Developed in 2011, the EMR Ambulatory Adoption Model provides a methodology for evaluating the progress and impact of EMR systems for ambulatory facilities owned by hospitals in the HIMSS Analytics Database. Stage 7 represents the highest level of EMR adoption and indicates a health system’s advanced electronic patient record environment.

Through the second fiscal quarter of 2013, only 1.16 percent of the more than 19,085 U.S. ambulatory clinics in the HIMSS Analytics database have received the Stage 7 Ambulatory Award. With 350 primary care and specialty physician clinics across three states, Novant Health more than doubled the number of Stage 7 ambulatory facilities in the country.

As a Stage 7 organization, Novant Health utilizes a variety of EHR features and tools to elevate the quality of care provided and increase affordability, says Garrett. One of these unique features, advanced decision support, achieves both by allowing providers to identify their patients who are in need of or who are overdue for care—ranging from routine tests associated with management of chronic conditions to annual screenings such as mammograms. Providers are then able to proactively reach out to patients to ensure care is given in order to prevent illnesses or conditions where acute care would be needed, which results in a more costly visit for the patient.

Healthcare Informatics Assistant Editor Rajiv Leventhal recently had a chance to speak with Garrett about the significance of being a Stage 7 health system, the difficulties in getting there, the necessary strategies it took, and how far the industry has come in terms of EHR progress. Below are excerpts from that interview.

How difficult was it for Novant Health to get to Stage 7?

We have come a long way in making life better for our patients. Adoption of an EHR in a way that Stage 7 outlines and defines it means that you’ve gone above and beyond what most people have done. You have to remember, it’s all about the patient and what makes it easiest for them.  

For us, our ambulatory group consists of 1,400 providers in [approximately] 300 different locations, across three states. Logistically, that presents a big challenge. To roll this out over that many locations and providers was going to be tough, and we needed to be consistent in our delivery and create repeatable models. It was a five-year project initially, that we did in two years. We wanted to create a standard build, so we went with Epic’s model rollout. We built it once, and we pretty much have a very repeatable model in terms of how we roll it out across all of our specialties. We started small and then got confident and comfortable in how we rolled it out. Before you knew it, we had an implementation that [covered] more than 200 physicians in one go-live event. By doing that, we ate into the 1,400 providers in two years versus five years. That wasn’t the plan at first, but it started to make sense to do it larger and larger.

What technological strategies have you deployed to get to this level?

Internally, we branded the EHR system ‘Dimensions,’ because of our mission to deliver a remarkable patient experience in every dimension, every time. The six elements that make up what we call the ‘remarkable patient experience,’ are: Safety, Affordability, Quality, Easy for Me, Voice & Choice, and Authentic Personalized Relationships. When you have a very effective EHR and it is adopted by the clinicians and by the patients, you hit on all six of those vision elements. But it all starts around the EHR and its ability to make it easier to provide care. Just from a billing perspective, we had 90 different billing systems that we worked with across all of our providers. Now we have one.

We also utilize our patient portal, called MyChart, which connects you to your personal health information at home, on the road, or at work. Our growth in the use of it, whether on the PC or the mobile app, has been phenomenal.  We started with zero users two years ago and have grown to more than 200,000 active users, a number that continues to grow. We see MyChart as a vital tool, one that gives you the ability to do online scheduling— you don’t even speak with someone at the front office anymore, since the appointment is all laid out. That saves a lot of time, energy, and money for people. We also now have e-visit capability with your provider, as well as video visits with our physicians. These types of technology have made it easier for patients to get care and do business with us, on their time.

Why do you think such few health systems have been able to reach Stage 7?