Why Trinity Health is spending $800M on Epic

Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health is nearly three-fourths of the way through an $800 million Epic rollout that is bringing the EHR to 101 hospitals.

Dan Roth, MD, chief clinical officer of Trinity Health, told Becker's that "we're very excited about being in the last quarter of the implementation."

The health system plans to complete the Epic install in June 2025, marking one of the biggest — and most expensive — EHR switches in history.

Trinity Health started rolling out the EHR in early 2020 — then the world shut down.

"The biggest curveball in our implementation was this thing called the pandemic," Dr. Roth said. "We had to readapt our schedule around the pandemic and also readapt our implementation methodology."

After about a nine-month pause, Trinity Health resumed the EHR deployment in mid-2021. "We've been on schedule ever since," Dr. Roth said.

Before the 2018 decision to go with Epic, Trinity Health primarily used Oracle Health (formerly known as Cerner) for its inpatient EHR and Athenahealth for outpatient. "But we had three instances of Epic. We had a number of Meditech sites on the inpatient side," Dr. Roth said. "So we were 31 flavors."

Trinity Health had so many EHRs because of all the hospitals it acquired or merged with through the years. But as part of its TogetherCare strategy, any hospital it obtains from this point on will move to its Epic system. That includes Des Moines, Iowa-based MercyOne, which Trinity Health purchased from Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health in 2022 and will switch from Oracle Health.

Dr. Roth said Trinity Health picked Epic because the company aligned with its health IT goals. "That means giving patients the information they need across their care journey, and us being able to match them with that," he said. Epic has the "best ability for patients to interact with their patient portal, and they had the most aggressive timeline and roadmap for continuing to evolve the product in ways that are consistent with our goals of being very consumer-centric.

"Although EHRs are not always a favorite among clinicians, especially physicians, when you look about which ones are the best accepted and most effective, in our research Epic has been that."

Trinity Health has also been incorporating one of Epic's newer tools, the Cheers customer relationship management platform. The program allows health systems to reach out to patients about specific diseases. In October, Trinity used it to contact thousands of women due for mammograms; dozens of them tested positive for breast cancer, earlier than they likely would have otherwise.

Being on Epic will also speed up Trinity Health's digital transformation as it will allow the health system to quickly integrate new tools such as artificial intelligence, Dr. Roth said.

Dr. Roth said it makes the health system "smaller" by allowing its roughly 121,000 employees and 36,000 physicians to communicate on one common EHR. It's also getting staffers together in person — Trinity team members from around the country are traveling to New England to help with the go-live there, scheduled for May.

Providers have been both enthusiastic and apprehensive about the change, Dr. Roth said. "It's generally excitement," he said — particularly in places that had different inpatient and outpatient EHRs. The goal is to make clinicians' jobs easier, by reducing the number of clicks it takes to access their patients' information.

In spite of the huge investment, Dr. Roth said the EHR will eventually save the health system money, by allowing it to sunset numerous other systems and move to a single medication formulary for inpatient care. "What's impossible to quantify from a financial perspective is everything it does that makes things easier for patients," he added.

Trinity Health has broken up the launch into 11 six- to eight-month "waves" to allow for data conversion and to prepare for each go-live to go as smoothly as possible.

During those activations, the health system encourages patients to enroll in MyChart, Epic's patient portal. Trinity already has over 2 million patients signed up, with a goal of surpassing 3 million. That would be a little more than half of the system's total patient base.

Despite the technological advancements in healthcare, not all patients are engaged with their EHRs. "We can always do an incrementally better job of explaining the benefits to them," Dr. Roth said.

"We're super excited, not just to see the implementation journey come to its end in 18 months, but then take it to the next level for our patients," he added.

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