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 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.