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Bill Siwicki for Healthcare IT News
Macon Community Hospital is a 25-bed critical access hospital in rural Tennessee that was seeking to implement a Cerner electronic health record.
Knowing the intense challenges rural hospitals across the country are facing with COVID-19, staff wanted to experience the benefits of a fully integrated digital system immediately in order to put them in a good position during the pandemic.
Hospital staff and Cerner associates used this as a unique opportunity to take the hospital live remotely. Normally done with plenty of Cerner support physically on hand for the conversion, the team was able to successfully adjust the process for a virtual environment.
With Cerner’s EHR, hospitals across the world have COVID-19 updates in their systems to help prepare and track even before the virus reaches them, including in rural America. Using a shared domain through the cloud-based Cerner CommunityWorks delivery model, rural hospitals like Macon Community Hospital can more easily share information back and forth with similar organizations on the domain, including ones that already have experienced the surge from COVID-19.
“Our previous vendor lacked the integration across our hospital that we were looking for,” explained Thomas Kidd, CEO of Macon Community Hospital. “We were not able to gather the data out of our system that we wanted to in order to guide patient care and report on. We also had trouble with our previous vendor’s billing system and decided we needed a change.
“With our contract with the previous vendor running out near the beginning of the pandemic,” he continued, “we needed to quickly implement a new system that would solve the challenges we had with the previous. This was even more crucial in anticipation of COVID-19. We needed to make sure we had the right system as quickly as possible.”
Cerner’s CommunityWorks deployment model for its integrated electronic health record looked to provide the added benefits and integration the rural hospital was looking for across the enterprise, including billing. The cloud-based shared-domain approach brought these benefits to the hospital at the right price, Kidd added.
“Considering social distancing and safety precautions related to COVID-19, our options were to delay our implementation or work to complete the process virtually,” he explained. “We had confidence that Cerner, our IT staff and department leaders would rise to the challenge, getting our system up and running and clinicians ready to use it.”
There are many vendors with electronic health records systems on the health IT market today, including Allscripts, Cerner, eClinicalWorks, Epic, Greenway Health, HCS, Meditech and NextGen Healthcare.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
Macon Community Hospital decided to implement the Cerner CommunityWorks deployment model across the enterprise, including clinicals and billing. With the help of Cerner, hospital IT staff and department leaders, the hospital officially went live with the new system on March 30, 2020.
“We began the implementation of the new EHR at the beginning of the pandemic, but had begun working with Cerner on testing and training staff before then to make sure we would be ready to go on day one,” Kidd said. “With reduced patient volume in anticipation of the COVID-19 surge, clinicians had additional time to acclimate to the new EHR. Despite the lack of in-person support staff, the conversion went off without issue.”
Only live on the new system for a bit more than a month, Macon Community Hospital still is working to completely quantify the benefits it is seeing around the enterprise. At the beginning of the project, a few of the KPIs staff chose to focus on: medication bar code scanning, chart completion and outstanding documentation and medication-verification reports. Kidd anticipates seeing benefits in these areas in the coming weeks and months.
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
“Training and testing in advance of an implementation are a must, especially when it is done virtually,” Kidd advised. “A skilled IT staff, dedicated department leaders and the right vendor can replicate an on-site implementation in a virtual environment. Without being physically together, consistent communication of potential challenges is key to overcoming them.”