Olympic Medical Center to hire extra staff for electronic records launch

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Olympic Medical Center will hire up to three dozen travel nurses to support the looming switch to electronic health records.

Hospital commissioners voted 7-0 Wednesday to spend a maximum of $850,000 on the temporary workers, who will relieve OMC staff as they are trained on the Epic system over the next eight weeks.

The Port Angeles hospital and all of its clinics will “go live” with electronic health records May 4, a Saturday.

“We’ve have had so much activity behind the scenes with our training,” said Deby King, Epic implementation manager.

More than 100 “super users,” including 40 nurses, were pulled from their day-to-day duties for training March 11.

An additional 200 nurses will begin “end user” training along with other OMC staff Monday.

Provider boot camps and workshops are scheduled throughout April.

“In order to support all of this training, we are needing to supplement with travel nurses,” said Lorraine Wall, OMC chief nursing officer.

“We’re currently working with five different agencies, so it’s been multiple calls. We’ve done all of our own interviewing and scheduling and whatnot, so we feel very fortunate to have the 26 nurses that we were able to get.”

$1.8 million conversion

OMC budgeted $1.8 million for the conversion to the single-database system.

Epic also is used by OMC’s Seattle-based affiliate, Swedish Medical Center, and about 80 percent of the hospitals in Western Washington.

Providence Health & Services, a Swedish partner, is helping OMC, Jefferson Healthcare and several other Northwest hospitals convert to Epic.

Wall told OMC commissioners that the cost of the temporary nurses includes food, lodging and gas.

“They’ve all agreed to a minimum of an eight-week contract,” she said.

“It’s about $24,000 per eight-week assignment, and those are for 12-hour shifts.”

Temporary nurses

OMC hopes to hire as many as 36 temporary nurses to keep patient-to-nurse ratios down during the training period and for the first two weeks after the launch.

“One of the big challenges, of course, is we don’t know what the census is going to be,” said Eric Lewis, OMC chief executive officer.

“On a given week, our census can go from 25 to 60. We’ll keep trying to fill as many of those positions as possible.”

Lewis said there are “at least a dozen hospitals” in the Pacific Northwest switching to Epic in the next few months, which has put temporary nurses in high demand.

“We are also going to be offering extra incentive to [OMC] nurses if they are willing to work extra during this time so that they can help support the staffing ratios that we would like to meet,” Wall said.

King said the training so far has gone well.

“We have 18 credentialed trainers now,” she said.

“And this was a really great program that Providence brought to the Peninsula so that we could actually have folks in our system that are credentialed to train new staff. Otherwise, we’re sending new staff over to one of the Providence locations to get trained.”

Hospitals that achieve a “meaningful use” of a certified electronic health records system by July 1 are eligible for federal financial incentives.

OMC, for example, expects to recoup the $7.6 million it spent on the software while improving patient care.

The technology will enable a provider on the North Olympic Peninsula to send a medical chart to any other hospital on the Epic system, resulting in greater patient convenience and quality of care.

Hospitals that choose to stay on paper records stand to lose 1 percent of their Medicare reimbursement in 2015, followed by a 2 percent cut in 2016 and a 3 percent hit in 2017.


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

Last modified: March 21. 2013 5:42PM
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