Olympic Medical Center prepares for digital switch

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Fewer than three months before going live with a state-of-the-art electronic health records system, Olympic Medical Center commissioners have approved $1.5 million in capital spending to ensure a smooth transition.

Commissioners Wednesday voted 7-0 to authorize Chief Executive Officer Eric Lewis to spend the budgeted amount to implement Epic computerized records and associated software.

The conversion will take place May 4.

“There’s just a lot of time-sensitive action that needs to be taken over the next 86 days,” said Commissioner John Nutter, who serves on the budget, audit and compliance committee.

“There’s a lot of these decisions that can’t wait for two or three weeks until we have our next meeting, so it makes sense just to give him an authority to enter into these agreements. We know, in general, what all of them are.”

Temporary workers

Among other things, OMC will hire temporary workers to relieve staff as they train on the new system.

With 1,100 workers, the public hospital district is the largest employer in Clallam County.

“Employees will get anywhere from four hours to 20-some hours of training,” Lewis said.

“With so many employes needing so much training, we’re going to bring in some temporary RNs and other caregivers to relieve our staff so that they can get their training they need.”

There are several reasons for switching from paper records to a consolidated computerized system.

Patients will benefit from the convenience, participation in their care, improved accuracy and better coordination between provider, officials have said.

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

Federal incentives

The hospital will benefit from federal financial incentives. OMC expects to recoup the $7.6 million purchase price over the next four years, provided it achieves a “meaningful use” of a certified system by July 1.

Staying with paper records, sticky notes and old computer software would result in a 1 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement in 2015, followed by a 2 percent hit in 2016 and a 3 percent loss in 2017.

OMC must meet a series of deadlines before the switch. Data will be converted from Meditech to the Epic system by next Friday.

“We know that’s going to be hundreds of thousands [of dollars],” Lewis said of the data conversion.

“The good news is we’re working on ways to reduce the cost by our IT staff doing some of the mapping and some of the work.”

The hospital also must purchase blood-bank software and upgrade its 8-year-old digital-radiography equipment.

School levies support

In other board action Wednesday, commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution in support of the Sequim School District maintenance-and-operation and transportation levies in Tuesday’s special election.

The district is asking for a four-year maintenance-and-operations levy that would generate $5.8 million a year. The estimated rate would be about $1.60 per $1,000 assessed property value.

It also seeks a one-year $1.6 million bus-replacement levy that would be taxed at an estimated 44 cents per $1,000.

Ballots were mailed out by the Clallam County Auditor’s Office on Jan. 23.

“We spend a lot of time recruiting physicians, nurse practitioners, RNs and other caregivers,” Lewis said.

“And I know how important the schools are in not only recruiting people, but retaining people. I can think of at least three physicians in Sequim that wouldn’t have come to Sequim to treat people if the schools hadn’t been there and solid.

“Without good schools, the health care delivery system can’t be intact.”

Dr. Rebecca Corley, chief physician officer, agreed.

“Almost without exception, our providers that ask about our community, if they have children, the No. 1 question they say is: ‘How are your schools? Are they funded?’” Corley said.

“It’s so important to have viable and strong schools.”

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

Last modified: February 07. 2013 6:03PM
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