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University of Vermont Health Network Proposes Unified EHR

January 9, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The University of Vermont Medical Center has filed a certificate of need (CON) application with the state of Vermont to create a unified electronic health record (EHR) across four hospitals in the University of Vermont Health Network.

Officials of the organization said that a unified EHR will “significantly improve patient care by having all of a patient’s information available to a health care provider regardless of location whenever it is needed.”

According to a press release announcement, the capital cost associated with the project subject to CON review is $112.4 million, which includes $3.1 million in capitalized interest. The total cost of the project over the first six years of implementation and operation is $151.6 million. If done independently, it could cost up to $200 million for the four hospitals to upgrade their own systems but would still lack the network connectivity, the organization attested in the announcement.

The project is expected to take 40 months to complete, and will replace a variety of medical information, billing, and scheduling systems used by the UVM Medical Center, Central Vermont Medical Center, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital and Elizabethtown Community Hospital, all part of the UVM Health Network. Some of these systems are 20 years old and in need of immediate replacement.

“If a patient needs to go from their primary care provider’s office to a specialist, that specialist would have instant access to the patient’s full record rather than just portions that can be shared electronically today,” John Brumsted, M.D., president and CEO, UVM Health Network and chief executive officer, UVM Medical Center, said in a statement. “There are still times when the medical records are faxed or even hand-delivered by the patient at the appointment. In urgent situations, and especially during an emergency, having immediate access to important information is critical. A unified EHR is foundational to our ability to collaborate fully to provide the highest quality care possible.”

Systems today, made by different vendors, are only partially connected and as a result only limited patient information can be shared by providers at different hospitals in a timely manner. A unified EHR would potentially include health and clinical information as well as information on registration, billing, scheduling and insurance across the network. The project also includes current healthcare information security system technology, which is continuously reviewed and upgraded as appropriate, said officials.

The UVM Medical Center began implementing an EHR in 2008, using a system made by Epic. The installation focused on clinical information, and was completed in 2010 on schedule and below the approved budget. But other functions, such as scheduling and billing, continued to rely on software from different vendors, a situation that still exists today. “Connecting these systems through computer interfaces is labor-intensive, expensive and unsustainable,” officials said.

“This project will significantly improve the ability of our physicians, nurses and other caregivers to provide high-quality care, especially as we move into value-based care,” added Adam Buckley, M.D., CIO, UVM Health Network. “It will allow our providers to have immediate access to up-to-date information about a patient anywhere in the network, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of care.”

Further, a number of safeguards are built into the project to help ensure its successful completion, such as the use of a “nationally-recognized expert” with experience in overseeing projects of this magnitude, a phased implementation that allows regular assessment on progress, and regular reports to the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB). The submission of this CON application signals the start of a regulatory review process for the project conducted by the GMCB over the course of many months.

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