Epic Systems Takes the Leap to Remote, Virtual EHR Implementation

Following Cerner, add Epic Systems to the list of vendors that successfully launched a virtual EHR implementation.

Valley Children’s Healthcare, which provides care for over 1.4 million children in the Madera County area of California, has completed a remote, virtual EHR implementation with Epic Systems. This is the EHR vendor’s first virtual EHR implementation.

The COVID-19 travel bans made it challenging to do a traditional in-person implementation, which requires numerous EHR vendor support staff to be on-site in the hospital. This standard implementation was not possible during the pandemic.

Not only was the entire go-live process conducted remotely, but Epic and Optimum Healthcare, a staffing and consulting services firm, teamed up to integrate seven different EHR platforms into one Epic EHR platform.

This is the first time a third party engineered a 100 percent virtual go-live. Optimum utilized 20-plus analysts and provided executive oversight to help Valley Children’s IT team execute the transition.

“I have been involved in many go-lives over the years, but this one ran smoothly as any that I have seen,” Kevin Shimamoto, vice president and chief information officer at Valley Children’s Healthcare, said in a statement. “The remote training and go-live model used allowed us to stay focused on the COVID-19 pandemic while Optimum ensured our go-live ran uninterrupted.”

Prior to the official go-live, Valley Children’s EHR users participated in webinars, virtual support chat rooms, and one-on-one virtual sessions to prepare. Telehealth solutions were also implemented into the EHR to limit COVID-19 contact.

According to the vendors and the health system, despite the lack of in-person support staff at the hospital, the implementation went live without an issue and it went on as if the vendors were on-site, both Epic and Valley Children’s Healthcare maintained.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked challenges for EHR vendors and health organizations across the country.

Just last month, Macon Community Hospital (MCH), a rural 25-bed critical access hospital in Tennessee, completed Cerner’s first ever virtual EHR implementation.

“There was a lot of preparation and communication between our team and Cerner,” said Thomas Kidd, CEO of Macon Community Hospital. “We had conducted the testing and training before the pandemic hit. With those out of the way, I felt like it was a simple go-live.”

Due to travel restrictions, Cerner gave MCH two options: to postpone the implementation or attempt a remote go-live. MCH chose the virtual go-live.

“They wanted to postpone and we said that's not possible,” Scott Tongate, chief financial officer at MCH, said in an interview with EHRIntelligence. “They came back with the option of the virtual go-live. Because of the coronavirus, we still had to go live even if we weren’t able to have Cerner’s in-person support.”

The hospital and the vendor worked together to devise a plan to successfully navigate the virtual implementation, highlighted by a communication plan and support for the inpatient, emergency, laboratory, radiology, and IT departments.

The vendor’s extra support system aided troubleshooting, workflow issues, and integration discussions. They also put together a “daily charge huddle” to keep the teams on the same page. Tongate was assigned with speaking with the departments to ensure they were on track.

While most would think that a remote implementation could result in technical issues along the way, Tongate credited the hospital’s technical team and Cerner’s roadmap for a smooth transition, even though Cerner was unable to send its associates to Tennessee.

“We didn't have Cerner’s team sitting right here, but they did a great job of providing us with a roadmap on training and testing,” Tongate said. “We really stuck to the training and testing requirements that they laid out, so when we went live, we did not run into technical issues that we ran into in past go-lives.”

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