WA Hospital Implements Epic EHR to Support Rural Health Network

Following its Epic EHR implementation, a rural hospital in Washington state will soon be able to boost its interoperability between its 15-member healthcare network.

Newport Hospital and Health Services (NHHS), a rural hospital that serves northeast Washington and northern Idaho, announced it is implementing Epic EHR to increase interoperability between the hospital and the other 14 members of the Northwest Rural Health Network, according to the Bonnie County Daily Bee.

NHHS said it will implement the Epic Systems Community Connect model, which the organization said is a cost-effective program that allows hospitals to connect to a larger local hospital in order to connect to the Epic EHR network. It enhances interoperability with the nearby health system, thus increasing referrals and providing a lower cost EHR implementation.

“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.

Following its upcoming implementation, NHHS will be able to connect to more than 34 hospitals and 475 clinicians in its network, the hospital said.

The health system said the Epic platform will promote interoperability between Newport Health Center and Newport Community Hospital, along with the other hospitals in the Northwest Rural Health Network.

A NHHS patient can make her health records accessible to a separate hospital in the healthcare network, or an independent hospital out of NHHS’ system that also uses the Epic platform. NHHS clinicians or clinicians at a hospital using an Epic Systems EHR can also view or access any EHR, which ultimately improves clinician communication and patient care.

"The ability to access patient records online will help physicians provide better coordinated care and improve quality of health care available across the region," officials said in the release.

The implementation will also result in a new patient portal for NHHS.

Using a mobile phone or computer, a patient can schedule appointments, place orders for prescription refills, communicate with providers, access health education materials, pay bills online, and view health history and lab results.

The EHR implementation is set for March 13.

NHHS, which is a critical access hospital and a rural healthcare clinic, offers primary care and outpatient services, such as radiology, laboratory, pathology, and physical therapy.

Interoperability has long been a challenge for small and rural hospitals.

The most recent ONC Data Brief found that 80 percent of medium to large hospitals participated in either a state, regional, or local HIE network. This compared to only 68 percent of small, rural hospitals that participated in HIE networks. Less than 50 percent of small, rural, and critical access hospitals (CAHs) participated in national as well as state, regional, or local HIE networks.

Small or rural organizations and CAHs reported participating in neither a national HIE, a state, regional, or local HIE compared to larger or more suburban hospitals.

Although Community Connect platform members have reported decreased satisfaction and have blamed Epic for allowing host organizations to deliver a sub-par experience compared to the vendor’s usual high standard, NHHS leaders are leaning on Epic’s interoperability.

Epic is the first vendor to make real progress toward universal patient data sharing and interoperability analyses have indicated.

In a recent KLAS report, almost all Epic users reported access to outside data and nearly two-thirds achieve “deep interoperability.” However, its most progressive customers want the vendor to increase its use of APIs.

“Records from exchange partners are presented fairly automatically, allowing clinicians to make better use of data at the point of care,” wrote KLAS. “This success is tied to satisfaction improvements with outside-record sharing and increased participation in Carequality, as well as Epic’s proactive approach to progressing interoperability. Both Epic and nonEpic customers feel the vendor’s commitment to outside sharing has grown.”

Next Steps

Dig Deeper on Clinical documentation

Cloud Computing
Mobile Computing