Ballad Health launches Epic with virtual rollout across its 4-state system

Ballad Health, a healthcare system spanning four states in Appalachia, announced that it had deployed Epic to operate its electronic health records system.

The move targeted physician practices that had been part of Mountain States Health Alliance, which merged with Wellmont Health System in 2018 to form Ballad Health. Wellmont Health System has been using Epic since 2014. 

“When Ballad Health launched in 2018, we knew having a single EHR would be crucial for our patients’ safety, efficiency and convenience,” said Pam Austin, Ballad Health’s chief information officer, in a statement.

WHY IT MATTERS

Ballad representatives pointed to interoperability as a deciding factor for moving to deploy Epic across the hospital system, noting the benefits to patient safety and finances when providers can view and manage health records at every step of care.

“We are committed to enhancing care for the communities we serve, and with the launch in the physician practices, our care teams – regardless of their legacy health system – will be able to collaborate more effectively to provide the care patients need,” said Austin. 

“Most importantly, this transition will allow for better interoperability throughout the Appalachian Highlands, benefiting patients through a seamless, integrated approach,” Austin continued.

The Epic ambulatory launch marked a stepping-stone in Ballad Health’s journey to upgrade its overall computing infrastructure, which includes replacing 10,000 computers and converting all users to Windows 10, according to the company. 

Epic is already in use at eight of Ballad’s hospitals; by October, the system said, it will be deployed at the remaining 13. 

“With Epic now live in most of our Ballad Health Medical Associates practices, we’re one – major – step closer to bringing our health system onto a single patient record platform,” said Alan Levine, chairman and chief executive officer of Ballad Health, in the statement. 

THE LARGER TREND

Ballad is among several health systems to have pivoted to virtual EHR implementations amid restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May, EHR vendor Cerner launched its first-ever “virtual go-live” at Macon Community Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital in rural Tennessee. 

“Considering social distancing and safety precautions related to COVID-19, our options were to delay our implementation or work to complete the process virtually,” said Thomas Kidd, Macon Community Hospital CEO. 

Given the continued emphasis on social distancing measures, it’s important to note that Epic recently launched a telehealth service through Twilio, allowing providers to launch video visits within EHR workflows – although telehealth may be less accessible for rural patients without broadband access.

ON THE RECORD

“This has been a long time coming, and many people have put in an incredible amount of work to plan, prepare and execute,” said Barbara Allen, chair of the Board of Directors Information Technology Committee at Ballad, about the launch. 

“Our patients and communities will benefit from industry-leading technology providing incredible power to consumers to have more control over their health care and unprecedented access to their care teams,” Allen said.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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