Epic has landed – what does it mean for doctors?

It’s been six weeks since we threw the switch. There was mayhem. There were problems. We worried. We suffered. We persevered. We overcame… I mean, there are still some problems, but we’re okay.

Better yet, we will be more than okay!

Implementing an EMR during a pandemic wasn’t easy, and likely would have been smoother if the pandemic hadn’t already caused such chaos.

But delaying it would have just meant continuing to hobble along with our old system, and that would not have been any better.

The intricate workings of an organization as complex as HHS meant that, with the best effort, we couldn’t really have prepared for everything. Every change the EMR caused had ripple effects. Some of these were predicted and adjusted for, but those adjustments had their own ripple effects too.

We also have to acknowledge we were encultured to a system we knew was imperfect and that we wanted to improve. Epic helped bring about some of those improvements but included the extra work those improvements mandated.

Take, for instance, the need for greater transparency, reliability and accountability in our work. That requires better documentation, a better way to access that documentation, and the re-organization of the documentation into systems that can then interrogate the documentation and help us understand how we deliver care to our patients.

Without the ability to see what we do clearly, we have yesterday’s health care. Epic allows us to create our tomorrow.

Explore today

Now we are getting into the phase where most of us can wiggle our way through our work with Epic.

I have realized that if I can’t do something I thought should be doable, I must first check my context, (top, left corner, the Epic symbol). I know there are ways to get things done, and I just don’t yet know where all the clickable icons on the screen are--that little arrow icon in the top right corner of the box can lead you to where you need to go. Always click that first.

So, it’s time to explore.

Play around in the system now that you’re doing real work with real patients in real time. Realize how you need to differentiate between an outpatient and an inpatient order. Learn how the new referral navigator will help you to quickly and securely manage referrals.

After a few uses, the way you interact with Epic becomes easier. And as you do new tasks they will become easier too.

Invent your tomorrow

Epic doesn’t change the work you do with your patients. It does require you to change some of your workflows.

But as I play with this powerful tool, I realize I definitely will look for how to use it to make my work easier in a little while.

Right now, what I do is just try to find my way through as fast as possible. That’s enough of a challenge.

But I saw some data visualization on the nurse’s login when I was in the ED recently. I was envious! That would make rounding so much easier! Now, I have ideas and I want to look around to see how to do this.

Thanks to my iPad and Epic’s valuable tool, Canto, I see how this could be a significant game-changer for accessing information on the go, making decisions as I become more facile with it.

Leverage at a systems level

I am not trying to tell you Epic is always wonderful, or that you must love it. It is a single tool that has to work for every specialty, in every place, at every time.

No such tool is perfect for any one job, and there are those among us who love it and those who hate it.

But because it is just one tool, we have an institution-level way to integrate our care like never before.

Our tomorrow will see us as doctors who use technology more wisely. We will find ways to use this tool to do things we previously couldn’t. Consider how having a camera in your phone has changed how you work. As an aside, I recently spoke with an older colleague not wholly familiar with the latest technologyical advances. He - was incensed the camera in his phone had gone haywire and now he could not scan, include media in Epic nor do some fun things.

We will count on better communication with a system that is common to us all, with one source of truth. And imagine the day you can zoom out and up in the Epic database to see the bigger picture understand your practice better and make changes that affect more than just one patient or one practice.

We have Epic now. We will have it for a long time. Let’s leverage this to whatever advantage we can squeeze out of it.

Best wishes.


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