$10M USDA Grant Enhances Epic Systems EHR for Care Coordination in NY

St. Lawrence Health will use part of a multimillion-dollar USDA grant to enhance its Epic System EHR, enabling EHR data exchange between all hospitals, clinics, and emergency response services.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has doled out $10 million in grant funding to St. Lawrence Health, a northern New York-based health system, to bolster its Epic System EHR, according to Watertown Daily Times reporting.

The project, expected to take three years, will start with St. Lawrence Health's county-wide EHR implementation across all hospitals, clinics, and emergency response services in the local rural area.

A portion of the $10 million funding will be used to launch an inter-facility transport coordination center, providing emergency and medical personnel with patient information through St. Lawrence Health’s Epic Systems EHR.

The health system said it is “aimed at increasing the number of emergency personnel and making it easier for them to figure out to which hospital a patient should be transported.”

As a result of the project, rescue squads and other medical personnel will gain access to and be able to exchange patient EHR data to provide “increased quality of services, and potentially life-saving treatment, during emergency situations,” SLH President Donna M. McGregor said, according to Watertown Daily Times.

“This will enhance access, and all inter-facility/intra-facility transfers within and outside St. Lawrence Health, anywhere existing regional ambulances services currently operate,” said J. Brent Bishop, SLH's vice president of business development, according to Watertown Daily Times. “It is not specific to patients of SLH and we will abide by the proper EMS protocols. The goal is to enhance the entire EMS System in St. Lawrence County and improve deliverables to all stakeholders.”

St. Lawrence Health will also facilitate partnerships with local rescue squads to create a transport consortium, coordinating care across rescue squads and St. Lawrence Health hospitals.

Additionally, the funding will be distributed to increase training programs for emergency medical services staff. Clarkson University and St. Lawrence Health will collaborate to boost the emergency medicine workforce.

“There is a shortage of EMTs/paramedics in the county and the state. The training will enhance the skills and knowledge of existing EMTs/paramedics,” Bishop stated.

St. Lawrence Health stated the project is still in its early phases with key dates, such as when the Clarkson programs will launch, pending.

“Logistics are still being finalized and a formal date has yet to be determined,” Bishop said.

This USDA funding opportunity to increase interoperability builds upon other efforts to enhance health data exchange during emergencies.

Earlier this year, the Texas Health Services Authority (THSA) formed a partnership with health IT vendor PointClickCare Technologies and C3 Health Information Exchange (HIE) to expand the Emergency Department Encounter Notification (EDEN) network to help drive care coordination across the state.

The EDEN data source network sends alerts on inpatient events and encounters at emergency departments, post-acute facilities, urgent care centers, and behavioral health facilities. The network also supports sending alerts regarding non-acute settings if deemed a care coordination priority by its subscriber network.

The wide-reaching EDEN network offers visibility into patient utilization from various areas across the state, including Dallas, Ft. Worth, Corpus Christi, Midland, Nacogdoches, and other major metropolitan areas.

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