Health Care

UVM Health Network seeks $112.4 million records system

The University of Vermont Health Network is asking for permission from state regulators to spend $112.4 million on a new system for electronic medical records.

The network filed an application for a permit, called a certificate of need, with the Green Mountain Care Board on Jan. 3. The board will hold a court-like process to determine whether to let the network set up the system.

The University of Vermont Medical Center is in Burlington. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger
The application proposes to use a single type of software across all of the network’s doctors offices and four of its hospitals: the UVM Medical Center in Burlington; Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin; Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, New York; and Elizabethtown Community Hospital in Elizabethtown, New York.

Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, New York, is not included in the project because it was not part of the UVM Health Network when the network started planning the project 18 months ago. Porter Medical Center, which could join the network as soon as this spring, is also not part of the project.

The network has chosen to use software from Epic Systems Corp., a leading name in the electronic medical records field that is also used by Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, among others.

Across the four hospitals, the unified Epic software would replace as many as 32 systems made by more than a dozen different companies. The network says the new setup would streamline patient care and cost less than maintaining the current systems.

“I think that it is transformational,” said Dr. John Brumsted, the chief executive officer of the UVM Health Network and the UVM Medical Center. “I think it’s a huge step. It’s something that we’ve been planning for and looking forward to for quite some time.”

Linking electronic medical records across hospitals has been an idea since at least October 2011, when the UVM Medical Center (then Fletcher Allen Health Care) first affiliated with Central Vermont Medical Center to create the UVM Health Network (then Fletcher Allen Partners).

At the time, Judy Tarr Tartaglia, the chief executive officer of Central Vermont Medical Center, said her hospital would start using the larger hospital’s system “over the next couple years.” She said the change would be “pretty expensive” and that the larger hospital would need to file a permit application “in the next three months or so.”

Brumsted said Tuesday that the original cost estimates in 2011 for unifying the two hospitals’ electronic medical records systems were too low, so the hospitals couldn’t afford to make the change. In the years since then, Epic restructured its product to make it easier for multiple hospitals to use, Brumsted said. The network has since been saving up, he said.

The network says it will not raise prices to fund the project. The network’s existing capital budget will cover the $112.4 million price tag, according to the application. The money has already been accounted for in budgets for fiscal year 2016 and 2017 that the Green Mountain Care Board approved.

Updating and maintaining the dozens of systems across the four hospitals would cost as much as $200 million, the application says. “It is both expensive and wasteful to manage, update and maintain so many different systems,” the application says.

Dr. Adam Buckley, the chief information officer for the UVM Health Network, said Epic is a proven brand and that the network is confident the company will continue supporting academic medical systems into the future.

Implementation is predicted to take 40 months. Buckley said that once the Epic system is rolled out, the network would be able to install it in other affiliated hospitals.

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Erin Mansfield

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  • Irene Stewart

    This UVM Health Network doesn’t need a $112.4 million dollar records system, they need a money printing machine! They do not stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars of your money. Yes, it is your money! What happens to premiums? Weren’t they supposed to be more affordable, with the GMCB? A few months ago they were back at the GMCB for a new building. Do they sit around and just ponder who much they can spend and get away with everyday? The GMCB never, ever says NO to them…it is time to say “NO”.

  • Jamie Carter

    And this is exactly how a non-profit remains a non-profit when the GMCB approves another annual budget increase request…

  • stephen whitaker

    In the absence of a complete, credible and duly adopted Vermont Health IT Plan, the GMCB should refuse to approve, or possibly even consider this massive proposed expense.

    The annual updates to the HIT Plan, required by statute, were not produced since 2010. In 2015, DVHA awarded a contract to have the HIT plan written, revising that contract to $256k.
    The Plan was then shelved, without approval by the GMCB without approval, and VITL’s budget and workplan, conspicuously missing from the Health IT Plan was approved.

    The public domain Veterans Administration medical records software needs to be considered, possibly in context of a multi-state shared development and support/maintenance consortium.

    A precedent for the GMCB was set by the Public Service Board in 1993 or so when the Board suspended review of the VTA2 telecommunications contract by New England Telephone precisely because the Ten Year Telecommunications Plan was not completed.

    Shumlin legacy just keeps on giving.

  • rosemarie jackowski

    Electronic medical records are dangerous for patients. Too often they are inaccurate. There is NO way to safeguard privacy. Some doctors are so opposed to them that they have changed careers.

    Patients should have choice between doctors who use electronic medical records and doctors who make eye contact during visits and use paper records.

    Electronic medical records have transformed us from patients to algorithms. Why do we have Digital Medical Records. Just follow the money.

  • Louis Meyers, M.D.

    I agree with every one of the four comments already submitted above. The EPIC system is one of the most expensive EMR’s in the country. It is notoriously complex and laborious to use. It is ill-suited to use in many of the individual offices, but will indeed help enforce the rigid patient care algorithms which UVM wants every provider to use. There is no question the slavish dependence on these systems frequently robs time from patient encounters and creates huge increases in physician busy-work. Did you know that it takes 23 clicks of the computer to order ONE flu shot on EPIC?!

  • What have tax payers been paying VITL to do all these years?