Piedmont Athens Regional trades in Cerner EHR for Epic after acquisition

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Piedmont Athens (Ga.) Regional Medical Center went live on an Epic EHR Aug. 1, scrapping the Cerner system the hospital had implemented four years ago.

The EHR transition is part of Piedmont Athens Regional's affiliation with Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare, which acquired the hospital in 2016. Piedmont Athens Regional — including its ambulatory sites and acute care facility — will now use the same version of Epic that Piedmont Healthcare uses.

Piedmont Athens Regional officials have spent more than a year planning for the go-live, including training 5,000 clinicians and hospital staff, according to a hospital news release. An estimated 130 volunteers from other Piedmont hospitals provided support during the launch.

"We are following the very successful Piedmont playbook which they have employed at other Piedmont hospital implementations," Piedmont Athens Regional CEO Charles Peck, MD, told Becker's Hospital Review via email.. "[The Epic go-live] will allow us to be on the same system as the rest of Piedmont's hospitals and make it easier to exchange clinical and financial data."

The hospital's last EHR implementation — which took place four years ago — resulted in a tumultuous Cerner implementation that clinicians pushed back against, according to various media reports at the time.

The hospital, formerly called Athens Regional, went live on a Cerner system in May 2014. Less than two weeks after the rollout, clinical leaders and staff wrote a letter to the hospital's then-CEO and then-CIO, expressing patient safety concerns related to the new system. The two executives resigned later that same month.

At the time, Cerner officials attributed the troubled rollout to Athens Regional's decision to have IT staff lead the project without seeking enough input from the hospital's clinical stakeholders.

Robert Budman, MD, chief medical information officer of Piedmont Healthcare, voiced confidence in the hospital's new EHR, noting Piedmont Athens Regional and Piedmont Healthcare made a concerted effort to involve both IT and clinical leadership.

"This time there is enough accumulated wisdom out there about what makes for a successful EMR implementation that there really shouldn't be any excuse for a failed implementation," he said. "There could be difficulties — but no failures." 

Leigh Hamby, MD, CMO of Piedmont Healthcare, agreed that early collaboration played an integral role in the success of the Epic go-live so far.

"A tremendous amount of pre-work with the doctors really paid off," he said. "I've been blown away by all the sophistication of the doctors here."

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