Owensboro Health recently invested more than $2 million in a new electronic medical records system for OH Muhlenberg Community Hospital, providing a seamless transfer of patient information among all OH facilities.

The project, which has been in the works about 18 months, switched OHMCH from its early 1990s Meditech system to Epic, an electronic medical records system OH implemented in 2012.

"Back in its day, (Meditech) was a good system for a small, stand-alone hospital," said Ed Heath, OHMCH chief operating officer. "Today, we recognize that it's time to make a change."

In May 2014, Owensboro Health started managing the Muhlenberg County hospital. Later, the two systems entered into a long-term lease.

OH invested $7 million renovating OHMCH the first year. Under OH's management, OHMCH added general surgery, cardiology, and obstetrics and gynecology. OHMCH now performs more surgeries than it did before OH started managing the hospital.

Also, in January 2018, OH opened a 41,000-square-foot Healthplex in Powderly.

The Powderly Healthplex and all other OH facilities use Epic while the Muhlenberg County hospital continued with Meditech. The two systems spoke different languages, so to speak, and didn't communicate seamlessly.

" ... (W)e believe this change will only further enhance quality of care and safety at our facility," Heath said. "When implemented, our patients will have a consolidated medical record. This means if an OHMCH patient receives care at another OH facility, their medical records will be available in a seamless manner. This reduces the chance that information may be delayed, misplaced or misinterpreted ... ."

OHMCH used Meditech so long because electronic medical record systems are expensive to replace, said Tim Belec, OH chief information officer. Under other circumstances, OHMCH could expect to spend about $10 million for a new system.

However, OH officials budgeted $2.7 million for the transition, and they expect the project to come in about $400,000 under budget.

"The reason we were able to do the implementation for one-third of the normal cost is because OH has an outstanding information technology department," Belec said. "Using their resources, personnel and expertise -- which includes previously implementing Epic at OH Regional Hospital -- we were able to make this happen without having to bring on outside help."

Using OH staff creates another advantage, Belec said. Future system upgrades will be done by team members, who are familiar with the system.

"Doing this in-house saves us money now and will pay off even more down the road," he said.

With Epic, patients will have access to information about their care on MyChart, which is part of Epic and can be accessed through a secure web portal or through the MyChart app on a smartphone or tablet. MyChart also allows patients to communicate with providers, schedule appointments, request medication refills and see test results.

"With the arrival of Epic, we will do away with much of our redundant documentation, loss of information and confusion associated with managing patient health information in multiple record systems," said Kathy Myer, OHMCH vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer. "Epic also automates certain workflows and processes, and is designed for fast, efficient delivery of care, which benefits the patients and everyone caring for them."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com.

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