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Major NY Health System Leverages Epic EHR COVID-19 Vaccine Solution

A Western New York health system is utilizing its Epic EHR system to streamline a COVID-19 vaccination program.

Catholic Health System in Western New York leveraged the Epic EHR COVID-19 vaccine solution to distribute roughly 12,000 vaccines to New York healthcare workers and other individuals in the 1A vaccination category over the last three months, according to Buffalo Business First.

Epic’s EHR software offers its customers, such as Catholic Health, patient outreach tools to reach priority populations. These tools include patient scheduling, mobile workflows, and real-time reporting to public health authorities.  

In 2019, Catholic Health invested $135 million into its Epic implementation. Lisa Cilano, senior vice president of finance and revenue management at Catholic Health, said the health system would not have managed its current mass vaccination program without Epic software in place.

“A bit of this is speculation, simply because we weren’t faced with a pandemic and the vaccine with our old system,” Cilano said. “Having said that, we came over from at least eight different EMRs.”

“Do I believe that Epic and the vaccine effort are part of the solution? Absolutely. Do I think that’s going to benefit the community and employers? Absolutely,” Cilano continued. “The more you have people who are vaccinated, the more comfortable you are. It’s not a direct line to profitability, but it does help to get back to some sense of normalcy so that all those organizations can thrive.”

The vendor’s increased interoperability allows each health system or vaccination facility to share patient information with Epic facilities and other providers that do not run Epic EHR software. Facilities can also exchange patient data with state public health departments, communicating that data with the CDC.

Through Catholic Health’s “schedistration” process, individuals who are vaccine-eligible can register and schedule their vaccine simultaneously through the workflow. Prior to the EHR implementation, the registration and scheduling process could take up to 15 minutes to complete.

“We’re sharing information and sharing the ability to pre-register across the entire Catholic Health system instead of trying to manage in silos with the others,” Cilano explained.

Catholic Health clinicians utilize Epic’s patient portal, MyChart, to identify high-risk individuals to determine COVID-19 vaccine eligibility.

“It’s a very different experience than what we used to have in the old world,” Cilano said.

Catholic Health was one of 100 COVID-19 vaccination sites across the country that implemented the vendor’s EHR software, resulting in roughly 500,000 daily vaccinations across traditional clinical settings and mass vaccination sites.

Epic’s goal was to help set up 100 vaccination sites by the end of February and the vendor hit the 100-site mark in less than a month, the vendor said.

With interoperability being critical to COVID-19 vaccine deployment, several health IT vendors, organizations, and stakeholders, including Epic and Cerner, formed the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI). This initiative aims to give individuals digital access to their COVID-19 vaccination records.

The VCI comprises the CARIN Alliance, Cerner, Change Healthcare, The Commons Project Foundation, Epic Systems, Evernorth, Mayo Clinic, Microsoft, MITRE, Oracle, Safe Health, and Salesforce.

The group developed a standard model for health organizations administering the COVID-19 vaccine. The effort is designed to make the results available to individuals in an interoperable and accessible digital format.

The current digitized vaccination record system does not streamline infection control and distribution or access to vaccination records.

To achieve this digitalization goal, VCI members are utilizing open, interoperable SMART Health Cards specification, based on W3C Verifiable Credential and HL7 FHIR standards, the coalition explained. The goal is to store this patient immunization data in digital wallets.

The coalition is working together to develop a safe and secure way for individuals to access their COVID-19 vaccination records. Digitalizing these documents can enhance patient matching and expedite the time it will take for individuals to return to work, school, traveling, and extracurricular activities.

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