UPMC's Epic install 10 months in: 'We're seeing a symphony happen'

UPMC announced in September 2023 the system would transition its nine separate EHRs into one instance of Epic, a gigantic project involving more than 600 IT technicians and 1,200 clinical leaders to transfer 6 million patient records.


The global health system had been relying primarily on Oracle Health for inpatient and outpatient records, but decided to switch to Epic for a unified platform. The move is expected to close mid-2026. Leaders anticipated the Epic transition would "pay for itself' in seven years.

Ten months later, how is the implementation going?

"We're at this point where we have a great opportunity to transform how we deliver care to number one, impact the quality and outcomes for our patients, and number two, create some efficiencies for our nurses and doctors and techs that are providing the care," said Chris Carmody, chief technology officer for UPMC, during an interview with the "Becker's Healthcare Podcast." "But we're on this journey in partnership with Epic, and we're early on in our configuration phase."

Bringing the nine disparate health records into one instance of Epic takes significant time and financial resources, but will have clear benefits. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Carmody said UPMC had to adapt to the changing healthcare environment, which often meant making updates across nine different IT systems.

"We had this variation, which is, from my perspective, not a good thing when you're trying to train [teams]," said Mr. Carmody. "We see tremendous opportunities for us at UPMC to transform the delivery of care for our system."

The technology installation is the easy part. The bigger challenge is the people and cultural transition. Change is hard for any organization; it takes a skilled leader and communicator to bring everyone systemwide onboard.

"The biggest lesson I learned as we are on this journey at UPMC is that this is not an IT project," said Mr. Carmody. "This is a transformational project from a clinical and operational perspective. We have tremendous clinical and operational leaders at UPMC that have been around for a long time. We have a lot of great new leaders as well. We're all in this together, and it's not IT doing this unto them, but us walking this journey together."

Health system leaders without the right engagement, commitment and ownership from the clinical and operational teams are more likely to experience project delays and failures, said Mr. Carmody. End users will be less receptive to change if they aren't part of it.

"If you communicate well, and if you engage the right subject matter experts and team members, and you work together, we can accomplish anything," said Mr. Carmody.

UPMC now has four work groups, including IT, operations and clinical experts, working with Epic to define the strategy for care across the hospitals, physician practices and clinics systemwide.

"We are seeing a symphony happen, making the beautiful music of defining our new way of delivering care, using the platform and and making it a standard is great," said Mr. Carmody. "Now, there's going to be challenges ahead to make sure we're able to train upwards of 90,000 users over a couple of phases of our project and provide the right support so they transition from the old way to their new way."

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