It’s just another arena of record keeping that constantly plagues the average person when they find themselves in a new doctor’s office: personal medical records.
Aspen Valley Hospital hopes to alleviate this pain point for local patients by joining a network that is already 268 million strong. On Oct. 1, AVH launched a new electronic health record system—well, new to the hospital, but not to the industry. Epic, the third-party vendor that offers a customized virtual patient record management platform, is an industry leader.
This means better, more streamlined access to one’s health records, creating a more complete picture of one’s health care profile for any practitioner, AVH CEO Dave Ressler emphasized.
“Epic clearly stands out among electronic health records on many measures, including just the sheer number of teaching hospitals, for example, that use Epic — so 90 percent of doctors in training today are trained on Epic,” he said. “Even if you don’t have it, once you become our patient, you’ll have a permanent record of your medical history, your allergies, your prescriptions.”
This is critical to overall patient safety, he noted, so that each medical professional in different areas of expertise knows the patient from a holistic perspective. However, the system is also safer for patient privacy than cybersecurity concerns.
“Security right now – specifically cyber security – and the risk of their health care data systems being hacked is high,” he said. “And we’re very confident that we have the best in class when it comes to cybersecurity with Epic.” You can’t replicate what took them years to develop in terms of security and privacy.”
The goal of the Epic system is to create a single, unified health record for each patient so that doctors and other providers can access a complete health profile of the person they are treating, an AVH press release emphasized. Patients also have full access to their medical records through Epic’s MyChart patient portal.
Jennifer Slaughter, AVH’s chief marketing officer, said the MyChart patient portal is an asset the hospital is actively working to communicate with patients — via email, through the hospital’s website and even a mobile app.
“The patient will have multiple options to connect with MyChart – they can enroll through an in-person visit to one of our clinics, they can also receive automated emails and texts after they leave an appointment to sign up with an activation code ,” she said.
But a prospective patient doesn’t have to wait for an emergency—or even a regular appointment at one of the AVH-affiliated practices throughout the Roaring Fork Valley—to enroll.
“You can sign up yourself through the MyChart link on our website — aspenhospital.org/mychart — without an activation code or anything like that,” she continued. “You can just sign up and create your account yourself, so when you have your next appointment, it just flows right into your MyChart.”
The platform also increases the efficiency of the hospital’s operations, although some fine-tuning will be required before patients see any reduction in their bills transfer, Ressler conceded.
“This particular innovation really speaks very clearly to the efficiency in our work and in our work processes. Over time we will have some opportunities to see tangible savings, but it takes time to allow the system to become embedded in our daily work here,” he said. “So it’s not something we can predict or plan for right away.”
Overall, AVH’s total investment in bringing Epic online is about $16 million. Of that, Epic’s own licensing costs were $6.1 million, Slaughter explained in a follow-up email. “The balance of the remaining costs covers the development of interfaces to existing systems; staff, including training and travel expenses; and costs to replace some legacy systems and implement new systems in their place that integrate with Epic,” she wrote.
The implementation represents talks and negotiations dating back to 2020, Ressler noted.
“Our partnership with Epic will improve the patient experience by engaging patients in their own care,” he said in a statement before a separate interview with the Aspen Daily News. “Improves patient safety because our providers will be able to get a complete picture of each patient’s health profile before treating them – past medical history, allergies, prescriptions and other important information. This allows our doctors and staff to make informed healthcare decisions about treatment and testing.”