Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Jane Ford:
October 5, 2010 — The next revolution in medical care has arrived in Central Virginia as the University of Virginia Health System this week implemented its electronic medical record for all outpatient clinics. U.Va.'s electronic medical record, called EpicCare, went live in more than 140 outpatient clinics across Central Virginia.
"The launch of EpicCare gives the citizens of Central Virginia access to a whole new standard of care. And, with secure electronic records at their fingertips, clinicians can spend more time with their patients and less time on paperwork," said R. Edward Howell, vice president and CEO of U.Va. Medical Center.
EpicCare makes it easier for clinicians to access patient records, share information with other medical professionals, track trends in a patient's health history and receive alerts on best practices and reminders for health services such as flu shots. Patients can securely access their own records via MyChart to give them the most up-to-date information about their care at U.Va. Health System and their medical history.
All ambulatory areas moved to EpicCare on Sept. 28. All inpatient areas will begin using the system in March.
In preparation for the launch, millions of pieces of patient medical histories have been converted and loaded into EpicCare from U.Va.'s existing systems. This includes more than 1.8 million medical record numbers, 3.3 million radiology results, 18 million document images and 30 million laboratory test results.
"When we see patients at our outpatient clinics, we will not be starting from scratch," Dr. Marshall Ruffin, the Health System's chief technology officer, said. "We have painstakingly moved medical histories, prescription records and millions of other pieces of information from our old patient records into EpicCare."
The electronic records in EpicCare will assist clinicians in prescribing the right drugs, avoiding negative drug interactions, reviewing a patient's X-rays and MRIs, ordering updated laboratory tests, comparing the results to previous tests, and building a patient's medical record in a single location.
Dr. Robert Gibson, president of the U.Va. Medical Center clinical staff, said EpicCare will allow doctors to practice medicine more efficiently by giving them all the information they need about all of their patients in one place."
"Gone will be the days of calling about lab results, wondering if your patient has returned from radiology, or asking your patient to bring in bags of prescription medicines for each visit," he said.
What will the patient experience look like? On their first post-launch visit they will still have to fill out a form with the usual health history information, but on subsequent visits they will only need to identify themselves and any new medical developments, and their physician will immediately have access to their full medical history.
EpicCare's benefit to the patient also includes many new tools for managing their health:
• Patients will receive an "After Visit Summary" at the end of every visit. The summary has critical health information such as medication and allergy lists, tests ordered during the visit, education about the diagnosis and follow-up instructions.
• Patients will no longer be asked to fill out duplicate health questionnaires or be asked the same questions over and over. Information will be collected once and then verified at each visit.
• Patients can become active participants in their health with "MyChart." Using MyChart patients can view their test results, medications, allergies and other information online.
• Patients can use MyChart to communicate with their physician's office.
• Medications will be much easier to fill (and refill) with electronic prescribing.
EpicCare has been selected for use at more than 70 academic medical centers across the country, including Cleveland Clinic and West Virginia University Medical Center. More than 80 million Americans have some of their medical information in EpicCare systems and 25 percent of physicians in the U.S. use EpicCare.