On Saturday, Oct. 1, after nearly a year of preparation, Harnett Health will fully be switched to Epic, a new electronic medical records (EMR) system that will benefit not only the health system, but patients as well.
The Epic EMR software implementation is another step in the integration of Harnett Health with Cape Fear Valley Health (CFVH), which welcomed Harnett Health into the CFVH system last year. Cape Fear Valley Health’s hospitals and clinics have been using Epic, and its companion software, the patient portal MyChart, for three years. Saturday’s go-live event brings Epic online in Betsy Johnson Hospital, Central Harnett Hospital, and the hospitals’ outpatient clinics. Harnett Health’s physician clinics started using Epic in December 2021, so getting Harnett’s hospitals online with Epic is the last step of fully integrating the EMR software throughout the health system.
“A lot of our clinic patients have already discovered the convenience and functionality of MyChart, and having all the same records across the entire health system with Epic is a win for patients and providers,” said Harnett Health President Cory Hess.
Epic is used by several of U.S. News & World Report’s top-ranked hospitals and about 300 million patients have a current electronic record in Epic. Organizations using Epic can seamlessly interoperate. That means they can easily exchange patient data, which closes treatment gaps and reduces duplication of services.
Providers can use Epic to more easily view the story of a patient’s healthcare over time. The software platform’s key feature is its ability to maintain just one electronic medical record per patient, versus several. This can improve the care they provide. Electronic medical records are digital versions of the traditional paper charts once used in all doctors’ offices, clinics and hospitals. Patients can likewise easily view the record of care they received through the efficient patient portal, MyChart.
EMRs do far more than paper charts, however. They can track patient data in real time over long periods. This allows providers to analyze how a patient’s treatment progresses. The digital records can also identify patients for preventive office visits and screenings and automatically send appointment reminders. The added functionality makes EMRs actual care-providing tools.
Epic records go a step further. They contain complete patient health histories from a primary hospital, as well as other facilities where the patient receives care. That includes physician offices affiliated with the hospital.
Epic also replaces numerous other software systems the Harnett Health system used, including those for patient billing. The switch consolidates bills into one combined hospital and physician clinic statement. Bills are easier to pay online, as a result.
Phill Wood, Cape Fear Valley’s Chief Information Officer, says the Epic name is fitting because the new software affects nearly every aspect of patient care at Cape Fear Valley.
“This is going to be a game-changer for Harnett Health,” he said.
Patients will also benefit from the software switch because of Epic’s MyChart, the free online patient portal that allows users to view test results, update information, communicate with providers, and manage their appointments and prescription renewals with a single password.
Android and iPhone users can even download a MyChart app directly onto their phone.
Many patients who have tried it have been amazed by MyChart’s accessibility. If a patient is injured or hospitalized out of town, chances are the treating hospital also uses Epic. Roughly 80 percent of hospitals in North Carolina are on the Epic network, and 33 percent of acute care hospitals in the U.S. use it.
The vast coverage means those hospitals have nearly instant access to the same patient medical records, versus having to request records stored on a different platform. The wait time – no matter how short – can be pivotal during emergencies.
Physicians also have 24-hour access to the records. They can log into the Epic network using a dedicated physician portal.
Wood urges Harnett Health patients to sign up for a free MyChart account as soon as possible.
“It truly puts patient records in the patient’s own hands,” he said.
To sign up for Harnett Health’s MyChart, visit www.myharnetthealth.org/mychart.