8 hospital CIOs share their most exciting EHR project this year

Here, eight hospital CIOs share the EHR project they've been most excited by or proud of in 2021, from integrating home care to facilitating mass vaccination efforts to improving the patient experience.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style. 

Lisa Stump. Senior Vice President and CIO at Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health. Over the last year we have expanded our presence in home care with several new visiting nurse and home care programs. To support them, we implemented Epic’s Home Care module (Dorothy) to provide a fully integrated experience with our EMR as patients transition between acute care, ambulatory and home care. This is the latest extension of the EMR into a new business line and was an exciting enhancement to continuity and efficiency.   

Zafar Chaudry, MD. Senior Vice President & CIO at Seattle Children's. My most exciting and challenging EHR project this past year has been our Cerner to Epic conversion at Seattle Children's, which went live in October 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. It was a 20-month project from start to finish, and we went live with 20+ Epic modules at the same time. 

Some key details from the project: 535 team members and patient families participated in direction-setting sessions; 341,000 hours of IT employee time was dedicated to developing Seattle Children’s EHR with Epic; 94,000 hours of non-IT staff time including clinical and operational teams — combined, that amounted to 39 years of work performed within the past 18 months; 14,700 hours of instructor-led 100 percent virtual Epic training (which was a first) with more than 2,500 training sessions to train 9,982 people.

Tom Barnett. Vice President and Chief Information and Digital Officer of Baptist Memorial Health Care (Memphis, Tenn.). The most exciting EHR project the team is working on this year is building a completely new and innovative "clinic of the future" with our partner, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi. Every aspect of the traditional primary care experience is being challenged to make it more patient-centric and wellness-focused. It’s really stretching the teams to think about the EHR’s workflows differently.

R. Hal Baker, MD. Chief Digital and Information Officer at WellSpan Health (York, Pa.). The COVID-19 pandemic dominated the healthcare system again in 2021. However, this year we were able to shift to a proactive approach when vaccinations were approved for emergency use by the FDA. Configuring our electronic patient system, MyWellSpan, was at the heart of facilitating WellSpan Health’s role in the largest community vaccination effort in U.S. history.

When our governor gave us permission to start giving COVID-19 vaccines to patients this winter, our team was ready to help lead the charge. In less than four hours of the governor’s announcement, we launched an online registration site that allowed patients to schedule their first shot. Within 30 hours of launching, more than 46,000 patients had scheduled appointments for their initial dose. 

We subsequently developed a high-volume immunization clinic that allowed each station to perform 12 shots an hour. We integrated pre-appointment consents with text message reminders through MyWellSpan to help patients prepare for arrival. Additionally, we built in post-appointment prompts sent to a patient’s mobile phone to guide them in scheduling a second shot before they even sat down for the 15-minute waiting period to ensure there was no reaction to the vaccine. It was technology supporting healthcare as it should be.

Michael Minear. Senior Vice President and CIO at Lehigh Valley Health Network (Allentown, Pa.). Without a doubt, the most exciting EHR project was using our Epic EHR to deliver a large COVID vaccination program for our community. When the COVID vaccine became available in late December 2020 we needed to figure out how to support this new type of vaccination. 

Almost everything about this was new and hard. We had to make up many things ranging from new workflows for mass vaccination sites, synchronize with the new federal/state methods to order this vaccine, deal with multiple vaccine manufacturers when planning vaccination clinics, create new real time vaccine inventory tools, set up everything around a vaccination clinic while not able to predict how many vaccine doses our organization would get and when, new ways to create vaccine clinic slots — but only for a subset of people defined by the state department of health that changed week by week — and synchronize all these new workflow and EHR capabilities with broad community messaging. 

For the first quarter of 2021 it seemed everything was focused on COVID vaccination, lots of meetings and long days. Our Lehigh Valley Health Network has delivered over 428,000 COVID vaccine doses and our community has achieved a higher level of vaccination than most. This project was important to our patients and our entire community, it was hard but very rewarding.

Joel Klein, MD. Senior Vice President and CIO of University of Maryland Medical System (Baltimore). Without a doubt it was the huge vaccination effort. We set up mass vaccination sites in a convention center, an NFL stadium, and a ballroom-sized lecture hall with public self-signup and a super-fast experience end-to-end. We have surpassed administering 642,000 doses of vaccine given and helped Maryland become the sixth most-vaccinated state in the country. There were lots of little things we did to make the process smoother as we went along, but it was the size, speed and scope of this work that will probably and hopefully never be repeated!

Myra Davis. Chief Information Innovation Officer at Texas Children's Hospital (Houston). In response to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, Texas Children’s Hospital needed a way to continue leading care for more than 1.2 million of its children and women patients. The challenge presented to the various COVID-19 task forces was to figure out how to maintain the quality of care at the same or higher volumes while keeping patients and employees safe. At the same time, Texas Children’s Hospital, along with its pediatric centers, urgent care and other centers desired to get the COVID-19 vaccine into local communities. In order to accomplish these goals, we relied on the automation and scalable possibilities technology could offer.

Over the past year, Texas Children’s employees worked in partnership to enable offering online appointments, telehealth video visits, electronic questionnaires and e-check in — improving our patient’s flexibility and choice of how they receive leading quality care. We further achieved the goal of expanding the vaccine into local communities by enabling pop-up sites at local schools, churches, and community sites by enabling pop-up cellular network locations, connecting care workers back to our global Epic EHR, for registration, documentation, and consent. Vaccine sites were able to be set up and torn down in less than 24 hours and most sites were able to offer 1,000+ vaccines per day. The leadership and partnership with operations and technology allowed Texas Children’s to connect with and support the community in mass-scale in record times and numbers, furthering our mission to provide leading care for children and women.

Eric Goodwin. Vice President and CIO at Universal Health Services (King of Prussia, Pa.). We are excited to continue optimizing our nurses’ experience using our EMR. With the significant demands on each nurse’s time during this unprecedented pandemic, our clinical informatics team has worked to make the EMR easier to use and more efficient for nursing. Our front-line nurses and nursing councils were instrumental in providing input and suggestions to drive a more efficient user experience. Multiple optimization projects have streamlined system use and reduced time in the EMR per patient. For example, time spent by nurses on documentation tasks in the EMR has now decreased by over 30 percent since 2019.

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