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Electronic medical records system goes live

After months of planning and preparation, today (Tuesday) is the go-live date for Powell Valley Healthcare’s new electronic medical records system.

“I am confident our staff has done the necessary work to get us ready,” said Bill Patten, Powell Valley Healthcare chief executive officer. “This is a huge undertaking, and our team has worked to make it happen in an amazingly short period of time.”

Originally planned for June, the date was moved back to allow more time to get all the NextGen systems in place and preparations completed.

“I have never seen a full hospital go live in six months,” Patten said. “It is remarkable that we’re able to do it in eight. It’s not uncommon to take 12-18 months.”

The Powell Valley Healthcare board approved the purchase of the NextGen system back in December under the leadership of Mike Lieb, then interim CEO for the organization. The June date was planned to help Powell Valley Healthcare achieve federal “meaningful use” criteria, which would qualify the organization for federal incentive payments.

“By delaying go-live a couple of months, it just delayed our ability to attest to meaningful use, and that will delay the payment,” Patten said. “Instead of getting the money October-ish, we will get it December-ish.”

But Patten said that two-month delay won’t cause problems, because Powell Valley Healthcare qualified for an incentive payment earlier this year with its previous HealthLand electronic medical records system, which, despite being unsuited to PVHC’s multi-faceted operation, met federal qualifications for incentive payments.

In addition, Powell Valley Healthcare qualified for money from a state fund to help small critical access hospitals in Wyoming purchase electronic medical records systems.

Powell Valley Healthcare also has a $1 million line of credit with First Bank of Wyoming, just in case it’s needed.

“We don’t plan to use it, but it’s there in case we ever have a hiccup,” Patten said in late June.

Patten said he expected the new system and transition costs to come in under budget.

“We budgeted more than needed for personnel, but less than needed for software,” he said.

Meanwhile, the organization’s bottom line has improved over the past several months, thanks in part to a one-time incentive in which patients were offered a 25 percent discount if they paid their bill off in April. That brought in $492,857 in payments for bills totaling $642,505, discounted by a total of $149,648.

“There was such a backlog,” Patten said, “that Derek (Jones, former interim chief financial officer) said, ‘Hey, we’re coming up on tax season; why not tie the two things together?’”

The discount offer won’t be repeated next year, Patten said.

Patience please, patients

For a few weeks, patients should expect doctor visits to take a little longer at Powell Valley Healthcare while medical providers adjust to the new NextGen electronic medical records system.

In addition, they should be prepared to provide additional information about their medications.

“On their first visit after go-live, we ask them to bring a medication list with them, or the bottles of pills themselves, to make sure the new system is accurate as far as their medication goes,” said Bill Patten, PVHC chief executive officer. “Please be patient with us as we make this change. This is what we need from you in order to make the change better.”

The transition initially will reduce the number of patients medical providers will be able to see in a day. For that reason, the Express Care Clinic will not transition to the new electronic medical records system for several weeks so providers there can see more patients as needed, Patten said.

August is a good time for the transition, because there generally is less demand for physician services during that time, he said.

Electronic medical records help physicians and other providers provide a continuity of care across all the medical settings — from clinic visits to hospitalizations, or from the nursing home to a medical clinic, for example.

While some worry about the potential theft of medical information, “the restrictions are so great, the penalties are so large if we screw up, that the checks and balances we have ... should give patients a high degree of confidence,” Patten said.

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