Powell Valley Healthcare is making a major software transition for its electronic health record (EHR) system, which handles clinical documentation and billing. PVHC previously used software from …
Powell Valley Healthcare is making a major software transition for its electronic health record (EHR) system, which handles clinical documentation and billing. PVHC previously used software from NextGen Healthcare Information Systems, but is now switching to Cerner Corporation.
Jamie Buck, PHVC’s director of health information management, said the lifecycle of an electronic health record system is typically five to seven years, then a hospital must either make a major upgrade or switch vendors.
The hospital has been with NextGen since 2013, but about 18 months ago it began evaluating if the system fit the needs of PVHC’s providers, staff and patients. The organization tried out some different demos from a few providers, but when PVHC officially entered into an affiliation agreement with Billings Clinic, it made sense to license through the same vendor Billings uses, Cerner Corporation.
It’s a complex process to integrate a whole new software system into the hospital’s operations. PVHC personnel have been testing it with workflows and evaluating how it performs over the last year-and-a-half. This week, the change went live. Of course, with such a major transition, there were some unknowns.
“We do expect some hiccups because it’s a new product,” Buck said.
Not only are staff having to learn to use new software, Buck said some processes had to be altered in order to utilize Cerner’s full potential.
To help make it go as smoothly as possible, there are nearly 30 people from Cerner and Billings Clinic on site at PVHC during the day, and about a dozen at night, who are monitoring and troubleshooting the transition.
“They’re all here and hands-on. They’re really walking us through it,” Buck said.
She said the new system will be an enormous improvement over the previous one. NextGen was disjointed, and with Cerner, all clinical care will be done with the same system.
“So there’s no disconnect with multiple systems talking to each other. It’s not only better for our staff, it’s better for our patients, too,” Buck said.
The biggest benefit to patients, Buck said, is the continuity of care. If you’re seen in the clinic and then have to go to the hospital, all the records from the clinic visit are transferred to the hospital before the patient arrives.
Additionally, with the Billings Clinic connection, patients who go to Billings to see a specialist and come back to PVHC for further care will have their records easily accessed. The doctors and nurses at PVHC won’t have to call for records, making the process much more efficient.
Cerner also has a “very functional” patient portal, Buck said. Patients can see lab results and other information right at their fingertips.
So while there are some growing pains, Buck said there will be many improvements when it’s finished.
“We’re really proud of our staff and appreciate them hanging in there, as much as our patients,” she said. “But we do really appreciate the grace our patients are giving us as we figure things out. It’s not easy for anybody.”
Buck added that a lot of the kinks will be worked out in the next couple weeks, while the Cerner and Billings Clinic staff is on site to help. There will be more evaluation and fine tuning over the next couple months.
The Cerner system cost PVHC $357,000 annually, which is slightly higher than the annual cost of $333,000 for NextGen. CFO Joy Coulston said PVHC was able to leverage lower pricing for Cerner due to the hospital’s affiliation with Billings Clinic.