Big new patient records software OK’d for Porter Medical Center

MIDDLEBURY — The Green Mountain Care Board has green-lighted a new, $151.7 million electronic health records system that will greatly enhance patient services at four hospital affiliates of the University of Vermont Health Network — including Porter Medical Center (PMC).
“We are kicking off a huge project, one which can really be called transformational,” Porter President Dr. Fred Kniffin said of the new Epic electronic health records system that will allow patients’ histories — including medication lists, past procedures and hospital stays — to be seamlessly transferred and viewed by health care professionals within UVM Health Network.
“This has the potential to improve the care of our patients and residents for a long time to come,” Kniffin added. “We need to seize this moment, leverage this opportunity and do all we can to ensure success. Anything less is not an option.”
The new system will replace a patchwork of programs that do not communicate across hospital boundaries, which can pose a barrier to providing the highest quality and coordinated care when patients receive treatment in multiple care settings, noted Michael Carrese, media relations strategist for UVM Health Network. The software and related infrastructure from Epic Systems Corp. will be installed and implemented at the participating medical centers over the next six years.
Kniffin and Porter spokesman Ron Hallman anticipate Epic will “go live” at Porter Medical Center provider offices in 2019, and then at the hospital in 2020. The Epic infrastructure will replace Porter’s current Meditech electronic health records system that can’t effectively communicate with Epic and many other electronic records systems in a health care industry that is quickly evolving.
The University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Central Vermont Medical Center in Barre and Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, N.Y., are also being outfitted with Epic in this current phase. It’s expected that the network’s other affiliates — Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, N.Y., Elizabethtown (N.Y.) Community Hospital and the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties — will participate in the Epic system at a later date, according to Carrese.
Assistance with an upgrade in electronic health records technology was a major inducement in Porter Medical Center’s decision to affiliate with UVM Health Network last year. It’s a project Porter couldn’t have afforded had it remained an independent community hospital.
Kniffin, Hallman and other Porter officials last year were among those who lobbied the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) to approve a Certificate of Need for UVM Health Network to pursue the Epic purchase. Benefitting hospitals will share in the project payback and costs through a formula tied to patient counts. Porter’s ultimate charge has been estimated at $1,985,148. Porter will need to absorb Epic costs within the annual budget-growth targets prescribed by the GMCB.
In its approval of the Epic purchase, GMCB concluded the cost of the project was “reasonable” and will improve the quality of health care in Vermont. The board set forth a series of conditions to ensure timely and financially prudent implementation, including regular progress updates from the participating medical centers.
“I appreciate the (GMCB’s) thoughtful review and approval of this necessary and important project,” Dr. John Brumsted, CEO of both the UVM Health Network and UVM Medical Center, said through a press release. “We understand the board’s desire to measure and monitor key aspects of the system’s implementation and operation, and we look forward to keeping them updated on those and other factors.”
Porter officials were ecstatic with the Epic news.
“This will allow us to truly accomplish our mission in a better way,” said Tom Manion, vice president of Porter Medical Group. “We will truly be able to help improve the health of our community, one patient at a time.”
This is not the kind of project where folks will see a lot of trucks converging on Porter’s campus, unloading massive crates of new tech toys. Kniffin said Middlebury, Vergennes and Bristol folks are more apt to see new faces in their communities, in terms of consultants who will be helping doctors, nurses and therapists learn how to use Epic.
“I think the real visibility is going to be for patients,” Kniffin said. Porter patients will no longer face the occasional chore of having to bring hard copies of their records to different medical appointments.
“This is going to be a huge upgrade — a quantum leap in efficiency, patient experience and patient safety,” Kniffin said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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