17 Jul Kaiser On Schedule With Epic's Epic Project
Kaiser surprised many when, in February, the country’s largest HMO announced it would discontinue a multi-year effort with IBM to develop its own electronic medical record system — called the Clinical Information System — and instead purchase packaged EMR software from Epic Systems, a relatively small private software developer (click here for more information).
So far, at least, Epic’s been up to the challenge of supporting rollout of its EpicCare software suite to the 11,000-physician HMO, says Andrew Wiesenthal, associate executive director of the Permanente Federation and one of two executive sponsors of what Kaiser officials call the Automated Medical Record project.
Although Epic has been forced to increase its staff to take on the Kaiser project and other projects, CEO Judith Faulker says Kaiser’s size has not posed a significant challenge.
“Their size is not an overwhelming factor, since most of the system build tasks are performed only once and rolled out to each location by the client’s own staff,” Faulkner says.
Wiesenthal says Kaiser has been forced to expand the scope of the AMR project in order to accommodate upcoming changes on the insurance side of its business. Historically, Kaiser has packaged its healthcare services in one way: as a comprehensive package of services available at a set monthly price with low co-payments and no deductibles. In some regions, however, Kaiser has been losing members to other HMOs and PPOs that offer employers lower premiums and more restricted services, Wiesenthal says. Now Kaiser plans to do the same thing. But the AMR project will have to be expanded, adding billing and other insurance software modules and processes that hadn’t been part of the original proposal.
Despite the widened scope, Kaiser and Epic have been able so far to avoid falling behind by adding the new software configuration tasks into the original project schedule. Currently, Kaiser is involved in what Wiesenthal calls the collaborative build part of the AMR project. A rotating group of up to 150 people from Kaiser’s eight regions gathers every other week at the company’s Oakland, Calif., headquarters to discuss and agree on common data definitions, master file layouts, and configuration settings for the Epic software.
That phase of the project will be completed in three weeks, Wiesenthal says. Unit testing of the software will be follow that. Concurrently, Kaiser and Epic are developing interfaces between the Epic software and legacy applications that will remain and with which EpicCare must work. Kaiser will begin installing the software for testing across its eight regions in late summer. Integration testing will begin September 30 and continue through the end of the year.
Then, although the software will actually be operated centrally from Kaiser’s data center in Corona, Calif., each Kaiser region will be responsible for rolling out the systems to its users.
The software rollout phase, which includes training and anticipated temporary productivity reductions, will be by far the most costly part of the estimated $1.8-billion AMR deployment and may be where Kaiser’s original schedule slips due to expansion of the project, Wiesenthal acknowledges.
Still Wiesenthal says, the EpicCare-based AMR project is expected in the end to be far less expensive and quicker to roll out than the custom software CIS project it replaced.
This column was written by Jeff Moad. The story is reprinted with permission of Health IT World, a twice-weekly electronic publication that delivers authoritative information on business, technology and product developments related to healthcare management systems and information-based medicine — including clinical trials, patient diagnostics, treatment and care — for those executives and professionals in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, regulatory and vendor communities who are responsible for technology purchase decisions in their organizations. To subscribe visit www.health-itworld.com.
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