Cerner Completes First Remote, Virtual EHR Implementation in TN

The staff at Macon Community Hospital and Cerner decided to implement the EHR system on a remote level, which is the first of its kind for the vendor.

—Cerner has launched its first virtual EHR implementation at Macon Community Hospital, a rural 25-bed critical access hospital in Tennessee, according to an emailed statement from the vendor.

Rural hospitals have always had a disadvantage when it comes to interoperability and EHR implementation, primarily due to a lack of funds compared to larger hospitals.

According to the most recent ONC data brief in late 2018, small and rural hospitals were about half as likely to share records compared to their larger counterparts. In total, only 62 percent of small hospitals shared this information.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, the staff at Macon Community Hospital wanted to transition to the Cerner EHR platform due to its added COVID-19 benefits and experience with smaller health facilities.

While the vendor has always implemented its EHR at the provider site, the hospital staff and Cerner decided to use this unique opportunity to implement the software remotely. Prior to the start of the implementation, the hospital had already been working with Cerner on testing and training for the system.

The implementation process began at the beginning of the coronavirus and rather than postponing the go-live due to the pandemic, it officially launched on March 30.

According to the vendor, despite the lack of in-person support staff at the hospital, the implementation went live without an issue. Due to reduced patient intake in anticipation of the COVID-19 surge, clinicians at the hospital were able to train and get acclimated to the new EHR system.

The hospital implemented Cerner’s cloud-based CommunityWorks system, which allows for rural  hospitals to share information with similar health organizations and even those that have experienced an influx of patients due to COVID-19.

The remote EHR implementation represents another adjustment EHR vendors have had to make in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Many have also optimized their EHR products, while Cerner has also issued guidelines for hospitals expecting surge patient capacity.

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced providers, stakeholders, and government agencies to develop strategies to prepare for the surge of testing and treatment demands.

“In support of this framework, Cerner has created our support strategies to align with this approach,” wrote the company in a release. “These strategies are rapidly evolving as the pandemic progresses throughout different parts of the world as will Cerner’s efforts evolve to support client needs.”

If an emergency department (ED) is experiencing a surge level one, which is 20 percent over capacity, the organization should plan on splitting the ED in half. If an ED is 100 percent over capacity, then additional pods need to be planned out. If an ED could be 200 percent over capacity, the facility needs to plan for temporary areas, such as patient screening outside of the ED or utilizing an alternate care facility.

Next, health systems or organizations need to develop strategies to build the necessary infrastructure to aid the pandemic, such as new technology or workstations.

To limit the number of patients in a facility, the vendor recommended virtual options like telehealth, for assessments. Workstations, laser printers, or wristband printers are also useful investments for creating additional registration areas. These areas can also help create a triage system using barcode scanners, label printers, or workstations.

Preparing the workplace with the adequate number of qualified staff members and making sure they have the adequate number of supplies is crucial during this time.

Cerner also recommended that an organization identify the number of staff members, along with making sure staff are trained correctly or even cross-trained when necessary. Once the staff is set, it is important to determine if the facility has secure storage and if the correct number of supplies are available.

Lastly, the vendor suggests that an organization supports operations and the consistent changing of staff, workflow, and systems during this time.

The coronavirus presents the ultimate test for health systems and a number of adjustments will be made to acclimate to the spread of the virus.

Source: EHR Intelligence