How Methodist Le Bonheur is going from 9 EHRs to 1 through Epic

Methodist Le Bonheur COO Monica Wharton is focusing on 'going slow to go fast' and keeping the total cost of ownership in mind as the system works to install a new Epic EHR.

The Memphis, Tenn.-based health system announced it was transitioning to Epic in January 2023. Becker’s reached out to Ms. Wharton to learn more about how the installation is going and how she is working to keep it cost effective.

Question: Why did you select Epic?

Monica Wharton: Our journey with Epic really dates back to January 2022. During that period, we realized that the health system was nearing the end of our contract with our current EHR vendor. As part of that process, we realized it would be necessary for the system to start doing an assessment of where we were with our EHR strategy. 

Also, during that time, there was a lot going on from a healthcare perspective with COVID-19. We were focused on our new strategic plan, which we adopted in April 2022. As we were moving forward and really thinking through what we wanted to provide to our patients and community, we realized it was a good time to sit back and analyze where we were from a technology perspective. We wanted to ensure that our technology supported our strategic plan. As we went through the assessment, it came to light that we had about nine different EHRs in our system, which includes six hospitals and over 200 care sites. 

As a system, we said how we can become more efficient and work toward one EHR. Because that is really the only way we are going to empower our patients to navigate their care journey and add more efficiency for our providers and our associates. 

 Q: How are you keeping the installation cost-effective?

MW: The interesting analysis we found is that we had nine EHRs in our system, one in our inpatient setting, and we realized going to a consolidated EHR would be more cost-effective in the long run. The way we are managing this process, we said we're going to be on time, on budget and on benefit. Relative to the budget piece, we have our total cost of ownership. Which really serves as our northstar for the organization. When there are occasions when any portion of a project is above what's been outlined in the total cost of ownership, that actually has to come to a special body for approval, which is the sponsor group of the implementation project.

Q: How are you working with Epic throughout the implementation process?

MW: Epic is an exceptional partner. We have truly enjoyed working with them. We have brought in Deloitte consulting as our implementation partner. We wanted to ensure that we had an experienced implementation partner who would work with other large health systems similar to ours, who were used to coming in on time, on budget and on benefit. Deloitte has been a tremendous partner, as well as Epic, and we've set up the appropriate governance models to really help ensure we are moving in the right direction for this initiative.

Q: Are you on track to meet your go-live deadlines?

MW: Right now, we are on track to meet our go-live deadline. We are going live in October 2024. We are actually only 63 weeks and three days away from our go-live. Right now, we are starting our build. So we are in the build phase of our Epic implementation throughout the project. We started with the initial key HR assessment, which was done and completed in that January timeframe. Then we did a kick-off in our organization with a series of town halls throughout our hospital facility and physician practices. As we move forward, we are still on track for that Epic go live. We had an orientation in June 2023, which was well attended by our associates. They were able to experience what a day in their life will be like with Epic. With Epic and Deloitte present, they were able to ask questions on how the system will impact their journey here. 

Q: Do you have one piece of advice for any other hospitals considering installing a new EHR?

MW: Remember, this is about the patient. As we have gone about this journey, we have been guided by what we call our travel guidelines. Internally, we named our project 'My Passport' internally with the goal of going to our destination. That final destination is really focused on a vision of ensuring our patients are empowered to navigate their healthcare journey. You should stay focused on the patient; the system should be designed for your patients and customers.

For us, it was remembering that it needs to be simplistic, that we want to be efficient, and we want to be consistent as we navigate the process. I think we've also told our team to continue to go slow to go fast and we go slow by following the governance principles that we design to make sure that decision-making is done at the right level within the organization and for the right reason. So we can continue within our organization forward to meet the needs of our patients and their future.


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