How one Mid-Atlantic health system put a Broadway spin on an Epic go-live

Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway hit Hamilton has sold nearly 1.7 million seats since it debuted in 2015, earning it a cultlike fan following. Known for its unique, hip-hop inspired songs, the musical's tunes stole the hearts of people across the country, including playwrights, musicians and ... hospital CEOs.

The blockbuster show chronicles the life of Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. treasurer, and still brings in an estimated $600,000 a week. Now, some unlikely organizations are giving new meaning to the play's wildly successful beats.

Self-proclaimed "big Hamilton fan" Mike McDermott, MD, CEO of Fredericksburg, Va.-based Mary Washington Healthcare, wanted a creative way to engage his hospital staff when embarking on a massive investment: a transition to a new EHR.

MWHC's previous vendor, Siemens, sold the Sorian platform the hospital was using to Cerner. At this time, Cerner was phasing out the software and transitioning clients to its Millennium platform. MWHC was left with a decision: Transition to Millennium or review other vendors.

Through a competitive process to pick the best future EHR, MWHC opted to move forward with Epic. Now, the hospital had to announce its decision.

Dr. McDermott looked for ways MWHC's situation would parallel the play's popular soundtrack and turned to "Right Hand Man," a song that describes George Washington's search for a trusty sidekick and adviser — or for MWHC, an EHR partner.  

After tweaking the song's lyrics to fit the hospital's story, Dr. McDermott and a group of talented hospital staffers — clad in costumes reminiscent of the play's 1700s setting — released a music video parodying the hit song to describe their need for a "right hand man," in this case, Epic.

"We are outcoded. Outbaited. Outhosted. Outdated. We've got to make an all-out stand; and yo, I'm going to need a right hand man," Dr. McDermott — the "damn fool that bought it [the EMR]" — sang in the video.

The video was submitted to the Epic team, and Dr. McDermott showcased it at the Verona, Wis.-based headquarters, where more than 9,000 employees had the chance to learn about MWHC's new plan.

"The video was an opportunity for us to introduce ourselves to Epic, to make a statement and let them know we are a great partner, that we might not be your biggest customer, but we'd like to think that we could be their best partner," Dr. McDermott said. "It was a way to show them that we want to have some fun, we are excited about this transition and investment we are making and that if we work together, we can build a great product."

But MWHC — which is named to honor the mother of Hamilton character and first U.S. President George Washington — didn't stop after just one parody. The team mimicked another Hamilton jam, "Alexander Hamilton," to tell its patients the hospital is "goin' live with Epic now."

MWHC rolled the Epic EHR out June 2 in what's called a "big bang" transition, meaning all the hospital's departments — inpatient, outpatient, radiology, even billing — went live on the same day. This is no easy feat, Dr. McDermott said. It took years of planning and months of training to prepare MWHC for the effort, which was why Dr. McDermott wanted to engage his staff with the videos. It took about one day to write each song and another to record each video.

"It was a way for [our associates] to get very excited about the project … and keep them focused on the work we had to do ahead of us," Dr. McDermott said.

To get physicians on board with the change, Dr. McDermott said working with physician partners — a group of hospital staffers who are computer-savvy — helped push the project along. He also praised Epic's physician builder program, which certified some of the health system's physicians. This helped MWHC make qualified changes in a timely manner.

As one hospital staffer put it in the video: "[Epic] set our course right on stride; we felt something new inside. A voice saying, 'We gotta build this ourselves.' So we started retreatin' and readin, 'certified with Epic's help."

Patients said they also enjoyed the videos.

"All of the feedback from the community has been outstanding …  The videos were a way for them to recognize that we have some changes going on here at Mary Washington Healthcare, and we are introducing a new EMR system that also affects their ability to interact with us as a health system with new patient portals and new tools," Dr. McDermott said.

As for an encore, Dr. McDermott said MWHC doesn't have anything lined up yet, but he thinks creative projects like this help boost morale and dispel concerns surrounding any big, impending task facing an organization.

Find MWHC's Hamilton parody videos on its YouTube channel, MWHCConnection, or to watch "We're Goin' Live with Epic Now," click here. And, to watch "MWHC Sings a Tale of Needing a New EMR," click here.

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