New single billing system also established
On Sept. 1, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health will implement a new computerized patient chart, or an electronic health record (EHR), enhancing quality and safety for patients throughout Morrison and north-central Stearns counties.
Facilities utilizing this new system, called Epic, include: St. Gabriel’s Hospital, Family Medical Center and Little Falls Orthopedics in Morrison County, as well as Albany Area Hospital, Albany Medical Clinic and Avon Medical Clinic.
The new system is designed to improve patient safety and provide doctors and nurses with more complete, timely information, all in an effort to provide a better patient experience. Additional computers and other technology, such as bar scanners, have been placed in the hospital units and in clinic exam rooms in anticipation of the implementation of the new system.
“Throughout this summer, the caregiver team has been undergoing extensive training to learn this new system,” said Lee Boyles, president, CHI St. Gabriel’s Health. “Many clinical staff members received additional training so that they can serve as ‘super users,’ which means they will be side-by-side with caregivers in the hospitals and clinics, especially during the first few weeks. In addition, we have four even higher trained staff members called ‘optimizers’ to further enhance the successful implementation of Epic.”
The new system has high security standards to ensure that patients’ medical information is maintained with a high degree of confidentiality and has additional features to ensure patient safety and improve patient care, said Boyles.
“It’s also the same system used by CentraCare Health facilities throughout central Minnesota,” he said. “Oftentimes, our patients receive care at a CentraCare facility and vice-versa. By using the same system, patient records will easily transfer when referrals are necessary between caregivers.”
Boyles and clinic administrators throughout CHI St. Gabriel’s Health caution that some visits may take a little longer than usual.
“As our physicians and staff learn Epic, clinic visits may last a little longer,” Boyles said. “Providers and nurses may be accompanied by a technical support person in the patient rooms to answer computer-related questions. These people will have the utmost respect for patient privacy and are only there as needed to support the patient-care staff during implementation.”
Patients can help make the implementation go smoother.
“To be successful, we are asking for the assistance of our patients,” Boyles said. “For appointments scheduled in September, we want patients to bring their medications or a list of their medications; complete or update a health history form with questions related to family and medical history; arrive 15 minutes prior to their scheduled appointments; and to be aware that there may be an additional support person in the room during the visit to help staff learn the new system.”
According to CHI St. Gabriel’s staff, specific benefits of the new electronic health record system are many, including speed, patient safety, enhanced communication and convenience.
Once a patient’s record is completed on a computer during the patient’s visit, it is instantly available throughout CHI St. Gabriel’s Health. Christopher Bell, M.D., family practitioner at Family Medical Center, said, “There is no need to hunt down a paper chart or wait for the information to be transcribed from an earlier visit at a different location, or even in the emergency room in the middle of the night.”
He said safety is improved as well, especially in regard to prescriptions. “Electronic health records alert physicians to important drug interactions and actually prevent the provider from prescribing medications to which a patient is allergic. Communication with consulting specialists is also easier than ever, allowing us to share important, detailed information with those consulting doctors,” he said.
The Epic system enhances convenience in a variety of ways, especially for the patient, said Dr. Bell.
“Prescriptions for most medications can be instantly transmitted to the patient’s pharmacy,” he said. “A visit summary can be printed for the patient to take home to review even before the patient leaves the doctor’s office. Finally, patients are able to review most of their own medical chart online through a secure webpage called My Chart. Whether at work, on the road or at home, patients can get answers to medical questions, receive test results, schedule appointments, refill prescriptions and keep track of their family’s health care.
“As physicians, the Epic system is a tool that gives both the caregiver and patient added safety features, all leading to better care,” said Dr. Bell. “We look forward to the myriad of benefits that Epic provides.”
A new single bill process will also be introduced throughout the health care system.
In addition to all the medical-related benefits mentioned, Epic also has a single billing system, which means that all of a patient’s clinic, hospital, and any other account activity will come on one single bill, said Deb Noble, director of financial services.
“Initially, during this transition period, the old and new systems will overlap and there may be occasions where patients receive up to three different bills,” Noble said. “One from a location using the new Epic system, one from a clinic using the old system, one from a hospital using the old system. Balances from the old system will not be transferred to the new system, so the separate bills from the clinics and hospitals will continue until those balances are settled. Because health care bills often can be confusing, patients should call our business office with their questions. We have set up three separate phone numbers to assist in handling the billing inquiries in the most efficient manner possible.”
For hospital services provided at St. Gabriel’s Hospital and Albany Area Hospital before Sept. 1, patients should call 1 (888) 479-7820. For clinic services provided before Sept. 1, at Family Medical Center (including satellite clinics in Pierz and Randall) and Little Falls Orthopedics, as well as CHI St. Gabriel’s Health affiliates Albany Medical Clinic, and Avon Medical Clinic in Stearns County, patients should call 1 (877) 922-2303. For the new Epic Single Billing Office (SBO), which will be utilized for all hospital and clinic services provided on or after Sept. 1, a number has yet to be determined.
“We recognize that the transition period presents some challenges, but moving forward, the single bill is something our patients have been requesting for years,” Noble said. “I’m sure it will be very well received.”
For more information about the transition to the Epic electronic health record, call Pat Rioux at St. Gabriel’s Hospital, (320) 632-5441.