UPMC's plan for an affordable Epic install

As UPMC is moving from 9 EHRs to Epic, CIO Ed McCallister said that the Pittsburgh-based health system is focused on managing the installation "to be as cost-effective as possible."

Mr. McCallister said it is "critical" that the health system's large IT initiatives fit closely with its broader financial plan. The health system has established a "three-legged" stool implementation plan that brings in different parties to help with managing its Epic installation cost. 

To learn more about UPMC's IT initiatives, Becker's reached out to Mr. McCallister:

Question: How do you ensure that large IT initiatives fit within UPMC's broader financial plan?

Ed McCallister: During my time at UPMC, I have been fortunate to work for an organization that recognizes the importance of investing in technology. This includes a strong partnership between IT and finance, which is critical to ensure all IT-enabled initiatives fit within UPMC's broader financial plans and strategies. We align with finance and are intentional to validate that together we have a common understanding that these initiatives are necessary to drive UPMC forward, while not losing sight of the costs associated with these activities. To accomplish this, together we leverage common tools and methodologies to plan and deploy technology investments across the organization. More specifically, we utilize a cost transparency budgeting tool to have data-driven discussions with our customers to meet their needs in the most valuable and cost-effective way.

Q: How are you working to keep costs down on the Epic installation?

EM: First and foremost, we are moving to a single EHR to ensure our brilliant clinicians can continue to provide life-changing medicine while gaining the operational efficiencies that come with a more streamlined care platform. This is truly a transformational undertaking for UPMC that will consolidate our nine primary EHRs into a single platform. This implementation is being carefully planned to occur over the next few years, and while this transformation will yield many efficiencies, it is essential that we thoughtfully manage the installation to be as cost effective as possible. In order to manage costs of the installation, we have created a detailed project plan and financial model using best-in-class practices. In doing this, we have established a "three-legged stool" that brings expertise from Epic, our internal UPMC subject matter experts, and external resources to create a well-rounded team dedicated to our success. I believe this strategy will result in not only a better experience for our employees, patients, and clinicians but also long-term cost savings.

Q: Can artificial intelligence play a role in helping to alleviate the healthcare staffing crisis?

EM: AI will truly be a gamechanger in healthcare in many ways. I believe that AI will enable us to truly "digitize" healthcare by automating manual tasks, giving clinicians more time to focus on delivering life-changing care to patients and creating operational efficiencies. Specifically, AI will reduce many of the administrative burdens that are placed on healthcare workers, addressing not only staffing issues but also aid in reducing clinician burnout, while increasing productivity and documentation accuracy. That said, we are approaching this evolving technology with cautious optimism. Recently, we published an AI policy and standard that governs how our employees can ethically and safely use AI, with a focus on automation and analytics. I am extremely excited to see how this will evolve over the coming years.

Q: What projects are you currently working on that you think can change healthcare?

EM: I am fortunate to be part of an organization and management team that has never been shy in making investments in technology and innovation. As an integrated delivery and finance system (IDFS), UPMC has a unique ability to experience and understand a holistic view of the individual. Applying AI will take this understanding to a new level. I truly believe that our initiatives around AI have the potential to positively change healthcare for not only our patients but also our clinicians, members, and employees. While technology is exciting, we can't lose sight of the fact that people must drive and fully participate in these technology transformations, including our journey to a single EHR platform. We have a strong multidisciplinary team focused on working with our respective stakeholders to make this a priority not only for the EHR transformation, but also in all of the exciting technology-driven initiatives happening across UPMC.

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