David J. Kilarski
PINEHURST – FirstHealth of the Carolinas achieved a unique milestone in its near 90-year history with the July 1 conversion to Epic information systems technology. The initiative is largest in terms of dollars and resources ever to be undertaken by the 15-county health care network.
The system-wide Epic implementation combined a number of functions previously performed via several different programs into uniform software programming. Of greatest significance to patients is the FirstHealth MyChart electronic medical record (EMR), which not only gives patients easy access to their electronic patient information but also allows them to pay bills, refill prescriptions, schedule appointments and communicate with their providers online.
Although the conversion from previous systems to Epic began the morning of Friday, June 30, the full “go-live” in hospitals, clinics and specialty services took place the next morning at 5 o’clock. FirstHealth’s administration and the Epic team based their decision for this “Big Bang” implementation – as opposed to a staggered, prolonged series of individual go-live events – on industry best practices.
“This approach allowed us to rally resources and focus on one massive effort rather than months or even years of transition and dual processes,” says FirstHealth CEO David J. Kilarski. “The obvious challenge with this approach was the overall magnitude of change that would impact almost every FirstHealth physician, employee and volunteer at the same time.”
Even with its late entry into the FirstHealth system, Moore Regional Hospital-Hamlet, was prepared for the same go-live timing as its four sister hospitals: Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, Montgomery Memorial Hospital in Troy, Moore Regional Hospital-Richmond and Moore Regional Hospital-Hoke. FirstHealth acquired the former Sandhills Regional Medical Center in December 2016, more than a year after the Epic move had begun in the other facilities.
FirstHealth’s Epic conversion began more than three years ago with an exhaustive national search of suitable vendors and continued through 18 months of hardware/software customization and installation and the intensive training of more than 5,000 physicians, staff and volunteers.
Numerous hospitals throughout the United States, including 85 percent of those in North Carolina, have also adopted Epic technology. This will allow FirstHealth’s providers and staff to (as appropriate) share patient information with health care providers in many of the major medical facilities in the state and nation including the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, Duke University Medical Center and UNC Hospitals.
“FirstHealth’s core purpose is ‘to care for people,’ and we think our new Epic EMR will truly help us to care for patients better while keeping them better informed about their care,” Kilarski says.