4-State Health System Taps Epic to Boost Interoperability

Ballad Health said it increased interoperability between its 21 hospitals that span over four states with its recent Epic Systems EHR implementation.

Ballad Health, a health system serving 21 counties across Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, deployed Epic Systems EHR, in an effort to ensure interoperability among its over 20 hospitals.

In June 2018, Ballad Health leaders approved a $200 million investment into its Epic EHR system. After over two years, Epic and Ballad Health’s health IT teams conducted a virtual EHR implementation due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The EHR system aims to provide real-time data access for patients and providers, regardless of their Ballad Health affiliation, the health system noted.

“Having a single electronic health record system is truly a game changer for Ballad Health and our patients. It allows for better interoperability, which will lead to enhanced quality of care for our patients,” said Pam Austin, Ballad Health’s chief information officer.

“Now, our providers — regardless of where they are located — will be able to collaborate more efficiently and effectively to provide care to their patients, and this new system empowers our patients by providing them easier access to their health records.”

Increased interoperability between Epic customers is a significant reason for the implementation, the health system said. A patient within the Ballad Health system can make her health records accessible to a separate hospital in the health system or an independent hospital outside Ballad Health’s system that also uses Epic.

Ballad Health patients will also be able to access Epic’s patient portal, MyChart. Using the patient portal, a patient can schedule appointments, place orders for prescription refills, communicate with providers, and view health history and lab results. A patient can access the patient portal on their mobile phone or computer.

“I’ve been able to view prior EKGs when making treatment decisions for patients and see the results of prior culture and sensitivity testing, helping guide our choice of antibiotics,” Kent Wright, MD, medical director of Johnson City Medical Center, said in a statement.

“When patients require care on the inpatient wards, our inpatient teams can very easily review my notes – now they are legible! – and review the labs and diagnostic imaging results we’ve collected in the emergency department. If you can’t communicate, you can’t collaborate, and Epic is absolutely the best tool I’ve ever used to communicate with others helping to care for our patients.”

Not only will interoperability reportedly improve across the health system, but Ballad Health said the health IT system is an upgrade in infrastructure, speed, security, and reliability. Ballad Health representatives said it recently combined its two legacy networks and replaced roughly 10,000 computers.

“This was a massive endeavor for a health system to take on at one time,” said Alan Levine, chairman and chief executive officer of Ballad Health.

“The timetable was aggressive, and to a large degree, our team was on its own as we progressed without the typical on-the-ground support you’d expect for projects of this magnitude, due to the pandemic. The effort by our team members has been heroic, but that is no surprise to anyone who knows the heart of Ballad Health.”

In October, Ballad Health earned the 2020 CHIME Digital Health Most Wired recognition that goes to a health system that utilizes data to boost patient care and outcomes.

“Ballad Health’s conversion to Epic is just the first step in our digital transformation journey,” Taylor Hamilton, chief consumer officer at Ballad Health, said in a statement. “Combined with several other efforts, we want to make Ballad Health the trusted source for health information and the easiest place for our community to access the right care when and how they need it.”

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