Forget paper charts, computer systems that don’t “talk” to one another and digital medical records that aren’t easy to share.

The University of Michigan Health System has just embarked on a multi-year journey to completely transform the way its physicians, nurses, other care providers and administrators use information technology in every UM hospital, clinic and office.

Along the way, UM patients and the doctors who refer patients to UM will also gain access to the powerful new system. UM health researchers will benefit, too.

UMHS recently signed a contract with Epic Systems Corp. for the first stage of a multi-year effort that will involve hundreds of UMHS computing and clinical staff.

Epic will become the primary vendor for clinical software and systems at UMHS. Over time, its products will replace or augment the hundreds of clinical, research, quality and business applications that were developed and purchased by UMHS over the past two decades.

UMHS says its hospitals, dozens of health centers and specialty centers, as well as its “back office” business functions, had already been using digital systems that were cutting edge for their time.

In particular, the CareWeb system, developed by UMHS faculty and staff, has been truly unique among large academic medical centers in uniting, in one system, the significant clinical and investigative information for hospitalized and clinic based patients.

However, to remain at the forefront of innovative medical care, education and research, the UMHS determined that a significant investment in clinical informatics was needed.

The new effort will replace and unify those systems and make new functions possible — including online portals for patients and referring physicians. It will also allow UMHS to meet the federal government’s goals for meaningful use of electronic health records and be ready to meet the federal deadline to use the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision, or “ICD-10,” medical coding system.

“With this approach, we’ll be able to harness the power of a truly integrated digital health care environment offered by a primary vendor model,” said Andrew Rosenberg, M.D., chief medical information officer for UMHS. “With the Epic system’s robust applications, we will also retain our ‘best of breed’ philosophy to be more efficient, more patient-centered and more able to make new discoveries about human health.”

Added Jocelyn DeWitt, CIO at UM Hospitals and Health Centers:   “Together with Epic, we will continue the UM Health System’s history of leading information technology use by integrating this system across every venue for patient care. This has been done by very few other medical centers in the world.”

DeWitt and Rosenberg co-sponsor the new project with other UMHS leaders. In the first project stage, they are David Spahlinger, M.D., senior associate dean for medical affairs, UM Medical School, and UMHS CFO David Morlock.

Over the next few months, UMHS and Epic staff will analyze all clinical and administrative processes that currently rely on IT or paper, and outline the ways in which researchers could use improved access to UMHS clinical information. For instance, the new system will allow researchers to automatically identify patients who might meet the criteria for the studies they are conducting, and contact them to see if they would be willing to volunteer.

After this first stage is complete, UMHS will begin the process of transforming its outpatient clinics and treatment centers, its coding and billing operations, its scheduling and registration systems, and its emergency department to run Epic systems almost exclusively. If all goes well, a new contract to convert systems in the hospitals, pharmacies and central medical record operation will follow. Many smaller systems used in highly specialized areas will also be able to transition to Epic beginning mid-decade.

The University of Michigan Health System includes the UM Hospitals & Health Centers; the UM Medical School with its Faculty Group Practice and extensive research and education programs; the clinical operations of the UM School of Nursing; and the Michigan Health Corp. The three UM hospitals are University Hospital, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.

UMHS has been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including 16 years on the honor roll of “America’s Best Hospitals,” as compiled by U.S. News & World Report. The UM Medical School is one of the nation’s biomedical research powerhouses, with total research funding of more than $420 million; it consistently achieves high rankings for excellence in the education and training of physicians and biomedical scientists.

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(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.


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