NC Health System Taps Epic Systems EHR During Affiliation Agreement

The Appalachian Regional Healthcare System signed an affiliation agreement, helping the North Carolina health system leverage an Epic Systems EHR implementation.

The Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) will begin an Epic Systems EHR implementation after signing a long-term Management Services Agreement (MSA) with the UNC Health board of directors.

The affiliation agreement signifies a shared commitment to enhance local healthcare services and advance access to resources for rural patients in the High Country region of North Carolina, ARHS stated

“UNC Health is delighted to have Appalachian Regional Healthcare System join the UNC Health family,” Steve Burriss, UNC health chief operating officer, said in the press release.

“We believe this relationship will bring great benefits to the people of this region, providing enhanced access to state-of-the-art care while preserving the provider-patient relationships residents have come to expect and enjoy. This affiliation will help UNC Health meet its mission of improving the health and well-being of North Carolinians.”

This relationship will enable great investments toward ARHS services, technology, equipment, and facilities.

The most significant benefit gained through the agreement will be access to EHR integration with the Epic MyChart patient portal.

By the end of the year, patients will have greater data access, ARHS stated.

The organization said the patient portal will give patients a more active role in their care, allowing them to view their test results, schedule appointments, pay bills online, update medications, refill prescriptions, connect with providers, and manage chronic conditions.

“The Epic electronic health record system will truly transform how we care for and communicate with our patients,” Thomas Dale, ARHS board chair. “It is one of the cornerstones of our agreement with UNC Health.”

In addition to the technology improvements, the new relationship also aims to enhance patient care quality and accessibility by bringing new subspecialty services to the region, such as advanced cancer care.

The relationship also means ARHS will gain access to resources of a large health system for purchasing and contracting. ARHS will now have the ability to purchase large capital items for a lower cost because the larger organization has contracts, services, and technologies in place.

Additionally, ARHS is hopeful the affiliation will lead to better primary care, the press release added.

“Our Board understands the importance of having a relationship with a top-tier organization that shares our commitment to rural healthcare,” Chuck Mantooth, ARHS CEO, said. “Our relationship with UNC Health will allow us to continue our goal to strengthen healthcare in the High Country. I’m excited about our future and the possibility of bringing more resources to our patients.”

Several rural hospitals have leveraged Epic Systems EHR to enhance interoperability and patient care delivery.

In 2021, a rural hospital that serves northeast Washington and northern Idaho implemented an Epic EHR. The EHR adoption meant Northwest Rural Health Network (NHHS) would be able to connect to more than 34 hospitals and 475 clinicians in its network following the implementation, the hospital said.

“We believe the Epic platform will allow us to improve overall care and service delivery by simplifying access, streamlining data, and improving the patient and provider experience with better tools at their fingertips,” said Tom Wilbur, NHHS CEO.

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