How the coronavirus pandemic has impacted EHR go-lives at AdventHealth, UCFS & more

A rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases has affected various aspects of the healthcare industry, from hospitals canceling elective procedures to shaking up plans for EHR go-lives and optimizations.

While confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus began to ramp up in the U.S. a few weeks ago, some hospitals and health systems were fresh off implementing new EHR systems or rolling out customizations like telehealth. These EHR projects can often cost a hospital or health system millions, if not billions of dollars. Coupled with the financial and clinical demands of COVID-19, some of these EHR projects have had to shift gears as hospital leaders address other issues arising with the pandemic.

Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based AdventHealth began its multimillion-dollar transition to an Epic EHR this month. The implementation project, which comprises more than 1,200 AdventHealth care sites – including 37 hospitals and numerous acute care, physician practice, ambulatory and urgent care facilities – was initially projected to take three years to complete when the health system announced the initiative in February.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic's projected financial impact on hospitals and health systems, AdventHealth has managed to stay on track in terms of the project's schedule. Because the health system was still early with the implementation, it was able to shift training classes for its IT members from in-person to virtual, an AdventHealth spokesperson confirmed to Becker's Hospital Review. The health system has also moved various internal communication forums to virtual to help the EHR implementation remain on its three-year schedule.

Norwich, Conn.-based United Community & Family Services also adjusted parts of its $1.8 million Epic EHR implementation due to the coronavirus pandemic. The medical center, which had been planning for the EHR go-live for two and a half years, was able to fully deploy the new system on March 3 before COVID-19 began to rapidly spread. However, by week three of its go-live, UCFS had to shift about 85 percent of its focus on EHR optimization to its COVID-19 response, according to Jennifer Granger, CEO of UCFS.

"We have been pleased to be using Epic as the team had a whole lot of training and were well prepared to launch it, however, the fine tuning and exploring all of the reporting options that we had really hoped to spend more time doing has been diverted to making sure we're prepared for the coronavirus by reorganizing our staff and other measures, such as finding protective equipment and tests," Ms. Granger said.

While UCFS is now taking its approach to EHR optimization "day-by-day, need-by-need," the medical center is largely focusing on other tech initiatives, such as patient-to-provider telemedicine capabilities, during the pandemic.

Other hospitals, such as South Boston, Va.-based Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital and Athens-based OhioHealth O'Bleness Hospital were able to complete their EHR go-lives in time to avoid repercussions from COVID-19.

Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital, which is part of the Sentara Healthcare network in Norfolk, Va., deployed an Epic EHR system in early February. This gave the hospital enough time to implement the EHR, dubbed Sentara eCare, and become acclimated with the same system as Sentara's 12 hospitals and various clinics, before COVID-19 began to take effect, a hospital spokesperson confirmed in an emailed statement.

OhioHealth O'Bleness Hospital was also able to launch its $11 million Epic EHR "several weeks before COVID-19 arrived in Ohio," said Rhonda Dixon, chief nursing officer at OhioHealth O'Bleness Hospital.

"Our go-live was unaffected by the virus," Ms. Dixon said in an emailed statement to Becker's. "If anything, our ability to be on the same EHR as the rest of the OhioHealth system will help in our efforts to address COVID-19."

More than 250 Columbus-based OhioHealth associates assisted with the EHR implementation. By transitioning to OhioHealth's EHR, dubbed CareConnect, OhioHealth O'Bleness Hospital joined the same electronic network that the health system's 11 other hospitals and more than 200 ambulatory sites use to share patient records.

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