By Josette Keelor
The launch of a new patient records database last month has helped Valley Health join about 50 percent of the nation's health care system in simplifying the health care process.
EpicCare, an integrated system of documenting patient care, allows medical personnel within the Valley Health system to access patient records. It also allows patients to view and update their own records from any location with an Internet connection, said Dr. James Kleinschmidt, vice president of Medical Affairs for Shenandoah Memorial hospital and Page Memorial Hospital.
"Implementation went very well," he said. "It was very smooth."
Since May 31, Valley Health's more than 5,000 employees and physicians have been actively using the system in all six Valley Health hospitals, three urgent care centers and 16 Valley Physician Enterprise practices, a news release from the not-for-profit organization states.
Pleased with the process so far, Valley Health CEO Mark Merrill called the implementation "an absolutely major endeavor for any organization."
"I give it high marks," he said. "We're excited about the opportunity."
Making the transition easier was Valley Health's recent alliance with Northern Virginia-based Inova Health System, which had already converted to EpicCare. Usually the process of transitioning a health care system to the new software takes 18 to 24 months, Kleinschmidt said. Being able to access Inova's system helped Valley Health switch over in 11 months.
The first phase of the transition, which went live on April 8, focused on ambulatory medical practices and offices not affiliated with hospitals.
Then, affiliated health care facilities closely tied to critical access launched their systems on May 30.
Kleinschmidt said Shenandoah County's hospital-owned medical practices went live on April 8.
By the end of the year, physicians not affiliated with Valley Health should also be able to log onto EpicCare to view information on their patients.
According to Kleinschmidt, implementing EpicCare should make hospital and doctor visits shorter and less stressful for patients who previously might have had to repeat information on medications and allergies to various doctors, nurses and assistants.
Through EpicCare's MyChart feature, patients can view and update their own records from home, helping further speed along a process that can include questions about current medications, allergies, immunizations and visits to physicians outside the Valley Health system.
"It's mainly their benefit at home," Kleinschmidt said. "I think that's been a bigger success than we originally anticipated."
Also through EpicCare, patients can view hospital discharge information and recommendations from physicians as well as set up future appointments.
The system is as safe as online banking, he said, as long as patients have a strong password and a high level of encription on their home or mobile computers.
"Epic was the foundation we needed to put in place to be able to drive those things we want to do in the future," he said.
Now Valley Health, Inova and Page Memorial Hospital, each of which had their own medical records systems until recently, can "move more as a system."
"We're all in the same information system," he said, and "that makes a big difference."
Contact Valley Health at its centralized number, 540-536-8988 or 855-724-3384 (toll free), or visit valleyhealthlink.com.
Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org>