Highland Community Hospital introduces new Epic computer system

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 25, 2017

For over a year, Highland Community Hospital prepared to make one of the biggest and most important upgrades since its establishment. On Jan. 31, Highland Community Hospital is “flipping the switch” to a new multi-million dollar computer system, which Hospital Administrator Mark Stockstill said is the dominant force in the industry.
The Epic computer system allows Highland Community Hospital to gather all of a patient’s records from previous visits from any healthcare facility that uses Epic to a central location. This upgrade will enhance the fluidity of patient care at the hospital and provide safety improvements that “leave no room for errors,” Stockstill said.
Before electronic health records became common, they were documented on paper and filed in massive rooms. Stockstill said the process of finding patients’ records in such a system is “something like going through a Dewey Decimal system.”
While Highland Community Hospital was compliant under their former system, Meaningful Use, the transition to the Epic platform greatly enhances care for patients and improves communication between Highland, community physicians and nurse practitioners as well as other institutions around the nation, a Highland Community Hospital press release states.
In the hospital’s previous computer system, if a patient says they have been there before, the hospital staff would have to find the specific record of their last visit manually. The Epic system, however, immediately provides this information and more. Instead of pulling up file after file, Stockstill said the Epic system traces and compiles all of a patients’ previous procedures, tests, prescriptions and any other relevant patient information into one location.
Another aspect of the Epic system focuses on patient accessibility. Iris is a patient portal system that allows patients to pull up a portion of their medical records and history online as well as other important information, like procedure notes. Iris also allows patients to engage in some online communication with their healthcare provider and schedule appointments, Stockstill said.
“We are really excited to get this new computer system up and running because we know it will enhance our patients’ experience at the hospital,” Stockstill said.
Iris has been available to Forrest General Hospital patients since 2013 and will now be available to Highland patients.
However, all big changes meet a few bumps in the road. All medical staff, and anyone at the hospital who will be documenting patient records, started training for the Epic system in November, which Stockstill said is not an easy thing to do.
“Practically the entire hospital has to learn a brand new computer system, which takes time,” he said. “We have enough resources from other hospitals that made this exact change onsite throughout training. We are confident that it will flip over easily,” he said.
Stockstill asks the community to be patient with the medical staff as they re-learn the new computer system.
“There has been a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes, and realization of this goal is completely due to the hard work of hundreds of current Highland and Forrest General employees who took on Epic-related roles in their work, as well as many others who came onto the scene to help during the training, hardware installation and go-live implementation. We can’t say thank you enough to the physicians and staff for their dedication and commitment to this process and appreciate their continued efforts going forward.”
This state of the art system is also beneficial because the medical records can be shared across the country with other hospitals, who have the same system to make patient care as smooth as possible.
“If someone from California moved to the county and came to Highland, if the hospital they used across the country ran on the Epic system, their medical records would be simple to pull up,” Stockstill said. “It’s as if they lived here their entire lives.”

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