Oakwood physicians prepare for EPIC transition

It was after 4 p.m. and most of the doctors who filed into the conference room at Oakwood Heritage Hospital in Taylor had already put in a full day. They had one more important task ahead of them, though, and they were volunteering their time to do it: preparing for the future.

The members of the Physician Workflow Design Team (PWDT), led by Karen Weaver, MD, meet twice a month to go over the forms and procedures that doctors in the Oakwood Healthcare System will use as they make the transition to the EPIC electronic medical records (EMR) software this year. Beginning in August, Oakwood will adopt the system designed to streamline patient information and integrate new technology, providing for more efficient and safe patient care.

“It’s a very diverse group,” said Matthew Zimmie, MD, medical director of information technology for Oakwood Healthcare of the PWDT. “It’s pretty unique what we’re doing here. We’re bringing in physicians from different disciplines.”

The EPIC software will allow a doctor to spend more time with his or her patient and less time doing paperwork. The new system will provide faster community with patients, who will be able to go online for medication renewals, to send an email to their physician or to follow up on recommended readings from their doctor. It will also give them access to their medical data no matter where they may be. It also means that nothing will be handwritten any longer, said Zimmie. Physician orders—including prescribed medications—will be electronically entered. For example, medication will have bar codes that match the patient’s wrist band to ensure patients get the correct medication. All documentation within EPIC will be electronic—and therefore legible to all physicians, nurses, and everyone else.

“These are three huge steps in the direction of improved quality and safety of care for our patients,” said Zimmie.

The new technology needed to implement the change will begin arriving this month. Oakwood will begin the monumental task of training more than 7,000 physicians, nurses and support staff that will require it in April, through a training HQ that will be in operation for 18 hours a day, six days a week. The Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center (OHMC) in Dearborn will be the first site to go live with the new software in August, and the other three acute-care hospitals in the Oakwood systems will be phased in after that.

“It will be a big change, but it’s well worth the effort,” said Joe Kleber, MD, a member of the PWDT. An emergency doctor based out of the Oakwood Southshore Medical Center and part-time IT consultant, too, he is very familiar with the EPIC software and electronic medical records. “As far as EMR goes, the EPIC system is by far the best there is.”