Hospital preps for electronic records

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Olympic Medical Center has embarked on a landmark project to provide patients with a single-database electronic health records system with staff meetings in Port Angeles and Sequim.

“It was kind of like a groundbreaking, only for electronic health information, you don’t get shovels out,” Chief Executive Officer Eric Lewis told commissioners Wednesday.

“But is was a very nice kickoff to the project.”

The public hospital district is now committed to the $9 million implementation of a digital patient-records system called Epic.

More than two years in the making, the project is one of the main reasons why OMC inked an affiliation agreement with Swedish Medical Center a year ago this month.

“I think we are off and running,” Lewis said.

“This will be the major focus for the first nine months. We’re going to go live in May, but still, there’s going to be a lot of work after we go live.”

Lewis added: “This will be the No. 1 project, and we’re not going to do much else because this is so important that we get this right.”

Immediate access

Once the Epic system is up and running, a specialist in the Seattle area will have immediate access to an OMC patient’s medical charts and prescription history.

The Swedish network and its affiliated Providence Health and Services already are using the same Epic system that OMC will implement.

About 80 percent of hospitals along the Interstate 5 corridor between Everett and Centralia are using Epic or planning to switch.

OMC officials have said the uniform medical-records system will improve the accuracy of diagnoses and make health care more efficient and convenient by reducing the need for patients to travel to Seattle.

The Port Angeles hospital and its various clinics currently are using five computer systems for health records, each of which has its own interface.

‘Meaningful use’

If OMC achieves a “meaningful use” of a certified system like Epic by July 1, it will be eligible for $7.2 million in financial incentives, mostly from Medicare, over the next four years.

Lewis announced Wednesday that OMC just received the first payment: a $325,000 check from Medicaid for signing an agreement with Providence to provide Epic on Sept. 5.

“We’ve got about $7 million to go,” Lewis told the seven commissioners.

“We’re watching the meaningful-use dollars pretty closely.”

If OMC eschewed digital records, Medicare would cut its reimbursement by 1 percent in 2015, 2 percent in 2016 and 3 percent in 2017.

Each of OMC’s 1,100 employees will be trained on Epic in one form or another.

“Providence has a great training program,” Lewis said.

“We’re going to train every employee. Most of the training happens 60 days before we go live, and it’s really intense.”

About 100 “superusers” on the OMC staff will help train their co-workers.

Project manager

Lewis also announced that Deby King, director of diagnostic imaging, has agreed to be OMC’s Epic project manager for the next year.

She will work closely with an Epic “steering committee” comprising hospital department heads, Lewis and Commissioner Jim Cammack, and a smaller health records “lead team” that will handle most of the day-to-day work.


Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at

Last modified: October 18. 2012 5:42PM
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