Fifty miles of high-speed cable laid. Twenty-four hundred clinical workstations installed. Eighty thousand square feet of medical charts scanned.
What do these numbers have to do with better patient care?
Last August, after 14 months of preparation, NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn went live with a new electronic health record system, called Epic. As part of an integration effort historic in both size and scope, NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn set up tents on its main campus to accommodate 400 Epic support experts, while information technology staff from the main campus stood ready to help. “This was a massive effort, requiring meticulous planning and teamwork to train 3,600 employees,” says Nancy Beale, RN, NYU Langone’s vice president of clinical systems and integration. “And we did it virtually without a hitch.”
Previously, NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn relied on a patchwork of record-keeping systems—some electronic, some paper—to monitor 1.7 million patients. Now, there’s a single, comprehensive digital file for each patient treated at any of NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn’s 22 inpatient and outpatient locations, or referred to any NYU Langone facility. The system provides faster access to information and less risk of error, and its interactive features enable smoother collaboration among caregivers. Moreover, patients gain greater control over their own healthcare.
Nationwide, systems like Epic are revolutionizing the way medical centers handle patient data. Adopted by NYU Langone in 2009, Epic consists of a suite of software tools built around a common database that helps coordinate and catalog virtually every aspect of care. Physicians use it to order tests, prescribe medications, track patients across clinical sites, and coordinate billing and insurance. For patients, a secure online portal, MyChart at NYU Langone Health, allows them to conveniently view their medical records, schedule appointments, and communicate with their clinicians from their home computer or smartphone. Another program, Care Everywhere, ensures that patient records can be shared safely with providers at other healthcare institutions. “Epic lets us analyze everything we do,” explains Joseph M. Weisstuch, MD, NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn’s chief medical officer, “and find opportunities to improve patient care.”
In a 2013 nationwide survey of more than 1,500 medical professionals, 1 in 5 reported that the electronic health record system they were using helped save the life of one or more patients. The features most likely to prevent life-threatening medical errors, respondents said, were the ability to access patients’ health records anytime and anywhere (70 percent), allergy and drug interaction alerts (54 percent), and the absence of easily misinterpreted handwriting (53 percent).
The Epic installation at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn was impressive for its speed as well as its scale. “This type of transition could easily take three years or more,” notes Nader Mherabi, senior vice president and vice dean, NYU Langone’s chief information officer. “We did it in less than half that time.”