Aspen hospital board OKs $15.4 million for new patient records software |

Aspen hospital board OKs $15.4 million for new patient records software

Aspen Valley Hospital officials have October 2022 marked on their calendars for the launch of a new patient-records system they say will modernize and improve medical care.

The public hospital’s board of directors Monday unanimously approved expenditures of $15.4 million for the introduction of an electronic health record software from Epic Systems.

Hospital CEO David Ressler told directors the expense is a “very significant cost for a hospital like ours” but also necessary. A successful launch will translate into more efficient operations, improved management of the 25-bed hospital’s revenue cycle, and better integration for population health management, he said. Realizing those areas of improvement are part of the hospital’s overall strategic plan, he said.

“I think our team will be a lot happier having this resource,” Ressler said. “Getting this done successfully between now and the course of 2022 is our emphasis. That’s what you can count on our hospital management and all of our staff to focus on. This is our rallying effort towards our strategic plan.”

The expenses include a one-time licensing fee of $6.1 million to Epic and another $6.5 million for the system’s implementation. Employees from the Madison, Wisconsin-based company also will spend multiple months in Aspen training AVH workers about the complex system. AVH is setting aside $890,000 for those travel expenses. As well, AVH is budgeting another $1.5 million associated with the use of its own resources for the software’s launch.

There also will be future operating costs, which aren’t part of the approved expenditure. Those costs will run around $800,000 annually to start, according to hospital CFO Ginette Sebenaler.

The deal with Epic is supposed to be finalized at the end of June, hospital authorities said. Epic’s electronic health record software will replace Meditech, an eventuality officials thought would happen last decade.

The hospital board in September 2015 approved an alliance with University of Colorado Health that would bring Epic to AVH, which was under a different CEO at the time. That deal, however, failed to materialize.

“The only way we could was a piggyback-type setup,” AVH Chief Information Officer Michelle Gelroth told the board, noting “that we would lose our local control and autonomy.”

Discussions with Epic resumed about eight months ago, Gelroth said. The company by then had branched out its service to rural hospitals, which no longer would have to align with a larger hospital to use Epic.

The board had been in discussions with hospital executives about Epic, but their meeting Monday marked the first time they talked about it publicly since the more recent conversations began, Ressler said.

Not only will AVH staff need training for the new software, which will create 13 long-term full-time jobs at AVH, and an additional four short-term full-time positions, Gelroth said. Patients, too, will need to get acquainted with the system.

“We have an entire team that is going to be working around communication,” Gelroth said.

Medical and health care organizations that use the Epic portal “can easily exchange patient data for greatly improved patient care,” said a news release from AVH. “Providers will have the ability to coordinate care with clinicians outside of Aspen Valley Hospital who serve their patients and their families, closing care gaps and reducing duplication.

“Patients will also benefit from the use of MyChart, a portal that allows patients and their designated caregivers to access their health information, communicate with providers, schedule appointments and pay bills using an app or webpage on their phone or computer.”

Approximately 72% of U.S. patients are in the Epic system, according to AVH.

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