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EMR Replacement & Migration Perspective: Tim Schoener, VP/CIO, UPMC Susquehanna

Posted on December 8, 2016 I Written By

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In the midst of a merger with a major Pennsylvania healthcare organization, Tim Schoener is wholly focused on EHR transition. He outlines Susquennaha’s plan for each aspect of transition, offering innovative and unique approaches to each. In addition, Schoener provides cogent insights regarding the intricacies involved with a multi-database system, the expenses associated with archival solutions, and the challenges associated with migrating records. This interview touches on many of the considerations necessary for a successful EHR transition as Schoener discusses minimizing surprises during a transition; why migrating a year’s worth of results is optimal; and how their document management system fulfills archival needs.

CHIME Fall CIO Forum provides valuable education programming, tailored specifically to meet the needs of CIOs and other healthcare IT executives. Justin Campbell, of Galen Healthcare Solutions, had the opportunity to attend this year’s forum and interview CIOs from all over the country. Looking for additional EMR replacement perspectives & lessons learned? View a recent panel where HCO leaders discussed their experiences with EHR transition, data migration & archival.

KEY INSIGHTS

Absolutely, we have problem lists that can’t be reconciled; there’s a problem list in the Soarian world and a problem list in the NextGen world, and they’re not the same thing right now, not at all.

We’re being told, if you think you’re going to migrate and move all this data to some sort of other archiving solution, get ready for a sticker shock.

Our intent is to take it to each physician specialty to establish a good comfort level, so when the transition occurs, I don’t have physicians’ saying to me ‘no one ever asked me…’ or not be able to provide excellent patient care. It’s going to be critical to the success of our EMR transition to keep our physicians engaged and involved.

Let’s face it, no staff member has the desire to support the legacy application when all of their coworkers are learning the new application. That’s a career limiting move.

It used to be something that struggling organizations were forced to pursue, but now very successful organizations are starting to affiliate and merge with other organizations because it’s just the state of healthcare.

CHIME is a great way to challenge yourself as a CIO and in your leadership. It pushes me in my leadership skills and helps to focus me back to what’s critical in the industry.
tim-schoener
Campbell: Tell me a little about yourself and your organization’s initiatives

Schoener: I’m Tim Schoener, the VP/CIO of, originally Susquehanna Health, which, as of October 1st, is now a part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and re-named to UPMC Susquehanna. We’re located in central Pennsylvania, four hours away from Pittsburgh.

A major IT initiative for us is that we’re swapping out our EMR over the next couple of years. We are currently a Cerner Soarian customer. In fact, we were the initial Soarian beta site for Financials and second for Clinicals. We determined we eventually need to migrate to something else – that’s an Epic or Cerner decision for us at this point. UPMC’s enterprise model is Cerner and Epic, Cerner on the acute care side and Epic on the ambulatory side. As of this writing, we’ve made the decision to migrate to the UPMC blended model. Over the past nine months we’ve been focused on an EMR governance process, trying to get our team aligned on the journey that we’re about to take and by late next year we will likely be starting an implementation.

We currently leverage NextGen on the Ambulatory side, with approximately 300 providers that use that software product. We’re a four hospital system: two of which are critical access, one which is predominately outpatient, and the other a predominately inpatient facility. We were about a $600MM organization prior to our UPMC acquisition.

Campbell: Related to your current implementation, tell me a little bit about your data governance strategy and dictionary mapping that may occur between NextGen and Soarian.

Schoener: We definitely have a lot of interfaces, a lot of integration between the two core systems. From an integration perspective, we have context sharing, so physicians can contextually launch and interoperate from NextGen to Soarian, and vice-versa. We do pass some data back and forth—allergies and meds can be shared through a reconciliation process—but we certainly aren’t integrated. It’s the state of healthcare.

Campbell: That’s why you anticipate moving to a single platform, single database?

Schoener: Absolutely, we have problem lists that are not reconciled. There’s a problem list in the Soarian world and a problem list in the NextGen world, and they’re not the same thing right now, not at all. Meds and allergies are pretty much all we get in terms of outpatient to inpatient clinical data sharing today.

Campbell: Do you leverage an archival solution for any legacy data?

Schoener: We use EMC and have large data storage with them. I wouldn’t call it archival, but we have an electronic document management system – Soarian’s eHIM.

There’s a huge amount of data out there and I know you have some questions related to our thinking with respect to migration. I have some thoughts around that related to levering our document management system versus archiving into a separate system. I’m pretty certain we would be thinking ‘why not use eHIM as our archival process, and just put other data in that repository as necessary?’ For results data, for instance, what we’re thinking of migrating, or what our providers are requesting, is a years’ worth of results. ‘Give me a year’s worth of results, and then make sure everything else is available in eHIM.’

Campbell: As such, your default is to migrate a year’s worth of data?

Schoener: Yes. We would presume that the provider is probably not going to refer back to lab results or radiology results beyond a year, other than for health maintenance kind of things such as mammograms, pap smears, PSAs; those types of things.

Campbell: What expectations have you set with physicians when they go live on the new EMR?

Schoener: From an ambulatory perspective, we’re thinking that it would be nice to have the most recent note from the EMR available. All of the other notes for that patient would be consolidated into one note via a single pdf attachment. The note that’s the separate most recent note, we envision that being in a folder for that particular date. That note would reside in the appropriate folder location just like it would in the current EMR. Our goal is to bring the clinical data forward to the new EMR, taking all the other notes and placing them in a “previous notes” folder.

Campbell: Can you elaborate on your consideration of PAMI (Problems, Allergies, Medications, Immunizations) as part of the data migration?

Schoener: Sure. The disaster scenario would be the physician sits down with patient for first time with new EMR, and there are no meds, no allergies, and no problems! They’ll spend 25 minutes just gathering information, that would not work.

We’re thinking of deploying a group of nurses to assist with the data conversion and migration process. Our intent is to have them to retrieve CCDAs to populate those things I mentioned by consuming them right into the medical record, based on the physicians’ input. We expect there to be a reconciliation process to clean-up potential duplicates. Or, to be candid, we’ve talked about automating the CCDA process, consuming discrete clinical items from it by writing scripts and importing into the new EMR. I think we’re leaning towards having some staff involved in the process though.

Now if you share the same database between your acute and ambulatory EMR, and the patient was in ambulatory setting but now they’ve been admitted, it’s the same database: the meds are there, the problems are there, the allergies are there; it’s beautiful, right? If they weren’t, then the admission nurse is going to have to follow the same CCDA consume process that the ambulatory nurse followed. Or you start from scratch. On the acute side, we start from scratch a lot. Patients come in and we basically just start asking questions in the ER or in an acute care setting. We start asking for their meds, allergies, or problems – whatever they may have available.

Campbell: We’ve discussed notes, results and PAMI. Are there other clinical data elements that you’ve examined? How will you handle those?

Schoener: From an acute care perspective, our physicians are very interested in seeing the last H & P (History & Physical Examination) and the last operative note, so we’re going to consider two different ideas. One would be that all of that data would still reside in document management, which has the ability to be sorted. It’s currently very chart centric. For instance, you can easily pull the patient’s last acute care stay. There is the ability, however, to sort by H & P, operative note, or discharge summary—something along those lines for the separate buckets of information. Therefore, a physician could view the most recent H & P or view all sorted chronologically. In addition, they’ll be able to seamlessly launch directly from the new EMR to the old EMR, bypassing authentication, which is important to mitigate context switching.

One of the areas we’re struggling with is the growth chart. A physician would love the ability to see a child’s information from start to finish, not just from the time of the EMR transition. So that means some sort of birth height/weight data that we would want to retrieve and import into the new system so a growth chart could be generated. The other option is to somehow generate some sort of PDF of a growth chart up until the place where we transitioned to the new EMR. The latter however, would result in multiple growth charts, and a physician’s not going to be happy with that. So we’re trying to figure that one out.

Another area of concern is blood pressure data. We’re struggling with what to do with a patient we’re monitoring for blood pressure. We’d like to see more than one blood pressure reading and have some history on that.

Campbell: Thank you for elaborating on those items. What about data that is not migrated. How will that be addressed and persisted going forward?

Schoener: For the most part, everything else would be available in the document management system. We can generate that data from document our document management system and make it available to be queried by OIG or whoever else requires that data from a quality perspective. We are aware that an archival solution is very expensive. We’re being told, ‘if you think you’re going to migrate and move all this data to some sort of other archiving solution, get ready for a sticker shock.’ If that’s what the advisors and consultants are saying, then our thought is that probably isn’t going to be the direction we’re going to go. We’re likely going to stick with some type of document management system for archival.

Campbell: Very good. How are you gathering feedback from different specialties and departments? Do you have a governance process in place?

Schoener: So as you may have gathered, we’re getting ready. I don’t want surprises. I want physicians to be prepared and to set expectations for what’s going to be available. What I just described to you, we’ve vetted that out with our primary care docs. Now we’re going to take that to our cardiologists and ask them what they think. Then on to our urologists to allow them to weigh in. Our intent is to take it to each physician specialty to establish a good comfort level, so when the transition occurs, I don’t have physicians’ saying to me ‘no one ever asked me…’ or not be able to provide excellent patient care. It’s going to be critical to the success of our EMR transition to keep our physicians engaged and involved.

There will definitely be a learning curve with the new EMR, but we want to be clear and set expectations with respect to data migration and conversion, so that when the physician does use the new EMR they’re not saying ‘that darn Cerner or Epic.’  It’s more ‘that’s a part of the data migration process and we weren’t able to accomplish that.’

Campbell: What about legacy applications support. Will all of your staff be dedicated to the new project?

Schoener: I mean, let’s face it, no staff member has the desire to support the legacy application when all of their coworkers are learning the new application. That’s a career limiting move. We still haven’t decided what to do.

Campbell: I agree that no staff member wants to be left behind. I’ve talked to organizations where they use folks for both and it just doesn’t end well. You can’t expect them to do both, learning the new system while supporting the old one.

Schoener: I guess it depends on the capacity and the expectation of that particular project they’re working on. Maybe there is a person who has less involvement with the new EMR and they have availability where they can support both, although it’s unlikely. Sometimes you end up having someone who wants to retire within the time period. In that case, they can almost work their way to retirement and then not ever support the new EMR, although that situation is also unlikely.

It’s a great question, and one we’re going to have to have folks help us determine.

Campbell: Shifting gears a little bit, what are your thoughts on health data retention requirements? Too loose? Too stringent?  As you know, it varies state-to-state, from 7-10 years, but I feel like there’s a huge responsibility that is placed on organizations to be the custodians of that data. Do you agree?

Schoener: I think that’s just healthcare. A lot of it is legal considerations and our need to protect ourselves. That’s why do we do a lot of the things we do. We’re protecting ourselves from lawsuits and litigation. I think it’s expected; it’s just the nature of the business. Just think of what we had in a paper world. We used to have rooms and rooms full of charts and now that’s all gone. With our current process, any paper that comes in is scanned in within the first 24 hours. So it’s not something I worry about. My focus now is making sure our providers can perform excellent patient care on the new EMR.

Campbell: Could you provide some advice, insight or wisdom for healthcare organizations pursuing EMR/EHR replacement & transition?

Schoener: Get ready for some fun! Affiliations and acquisitions are greatly impacting these decisions. It used to be something that struggling organizations were forced to pursue, but now very successful organizations are starting to affiliate and merge with other organizations because it’s just the state of healthcare. One bit of wisdom for anyone is: if you’re not interested in that type of transition and change occurring, healthcare’s not for you. That’s the nature of the business we’re in.

I would say from an EHR transition process, I found that having an advisor is extremely beneficial to help me think outside of my day-to-day operations. They’re able to look outside of your organization and ask the right questions. If you pick the right advisor, they’ll protect you and protect your organization. I think it’s been very healthy for us to have someone from the outside give us counsel and advice because it’s a tough process. It’s extremely expensive, and extremely polarizing.

Campbell: Outside of the networking, what did you come to CHIME focused on this year?

Schoener: CHIME is a great way to challenge yourself as a CIO and in your leadership, it pushes me in my leadership skills and helps to focus me back to what’s critical in the industry. It helps me to think more strategic and broad, not to get too engaged in one particular topic. I think it’s just great for professional development. CHIMEs the best out there with respect to what I do.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Evaluate options, define scope and formulate a strategy for EHR data migration by downloading Galen’s EHR Migration Whitepaper.

About Tim Schoener
Tim Schoener is the Vice President/Chief Information Officer for UPMC Susquehanna, a new partner of UPMC since October 1, 2016, which is a four-hospital integrated health system in northcentral Pennsylvania including Divine Providence Hospital, Muncy Valley Hospital, Soldiers + Sailors Memorial Hospital and Williamsport Regional Medical Center. UPMC Susquehanna has been Most Wired for 14 of the last 16 years and also HIMSS Level 6. Tim has worked at Susquehanna for over 24 years, 19 of those years in Information Technology.  He also has responsibilities for health records, management engineering and biomedical engineering. He is a CHCIO, HIMSS Fellow and CPHIMS certified. Tim received his undergraduate degree from The Pennsylvania State University with a BSIE in Industrial Engineering and his MBA from Liberty University. 

About Justin Campbell
Justin is Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions. He is responsible for market intelligence, segmentation, business and market development and competitive strategy. Justin has been consulting in Health IT for over 10 years, guiding clients in the implementation, integration and optimization of clinical systems. He has been on the front lines of system replacement and data migration and is passionate about advancing interoperability in healthcare and harnessing analytical insights to realize improvements in patient care. Justin can be found on Twitter at @TJustinCampbell and LinkedIn.

About Galen Healthcare Solutions
Galen Healthcare Solutions is an award-winning, #1 in KLAS healthcare IT technical & professional services and solutions company providing high-skilled, cross-platform expertise and proud sponsor of the Tackling EHR & EMR Transition Series. For over a decade, Galen has partnered with more than 300 specialty practices, hospitals, health information exchanges, health systems and integrated delivery networks to provide high-quality, expert level IT consulting services including strategy, optimization, data migration, project management, and interoperability. Galen also delivers a suite of fully integrated products that enhance, automate, and simplify the access and use of clinical patient data within those systems to improve cost-efficiency and quality outcomes. For more information, visit www.galenhealthcare.com. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

EMR Data Archival Strategy Deep Dive – Tackling EHR & EMR Transition Series

Posted on November 14, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Robert Downey, VP of Product Development at Galen Healthcare Solutions.

Inside the world of data archival (Download this Free Data Archive Whitepaper for a deep dive into the subject), there are nearly as many different types of archives as there are vendors. Many of the existing archival solutions that have gained popularity with large healthcare organizations are ones that are also frequently utilized by other sectors and often claim to be able to “archive anything.”

This can be very appealing, as an organization going through a merger will often retire dozens or even hundreds of systems, some clinical, but most only tangentially related to the delivery of care. HR systems, general ledger financial systems, inventory management, time tracking, inventory tracking systems, and CRMs are just a few of the systems that might also be slated for the chopping block. The idea of retiring all of these into a single logical archival solution is very appealing, but this approach can be a dangerous one. The needs of healthcare organizations are not necessarily the same as the needs of other sectors.
ehr-data-archiving-process
To understand why some archival approaches are superior to others, it’s useful to visualize the way each of the solutions extract, store, and visualize data. The methodologies used typically trade fidelity (how well it preserves the original shape and precision of the data) for accessibility (how easy it is to get at the information you need), and they trade how easily the solution can archive disparate sources of data (such as archiving both an EMR and a time-tracking system) with, again, accessibility.

There are certainly other ways to judge an archival solution. For instance, an important factor may be whether or not the solution is hosted by the archival vendor on-premises or remotely. Some factors, such as the reliability of the system, service level agreements, or its overall licensing cost are big inputs into the equation as well, but those aren’t necessarily specific to the overall archival strategy utilized by the solution. There are also factors that are so critical, such as security and regulatory compliance, that deficiencies in these areas are deal-breakers. Now that we have the criteria with which to judge the solution, let’s delve into the specific archival strategies being used in the marketplace.

Raw Data Backups
raw-healthcare-data-backups
A shockingly large number of organizations treat raw data backups of the various databases and file systems as their archival solution. There are some scenarios in which this may be good enough, such as when the source system is not so much being retired as it is being upgraded or otherwise still maintained. Another scenario might be when the data in question comes from systems so well known that the organization won’t have significant issues retrieving information when it becomes necessary. The greatest benefit to this approach is that acquiring the data is fairly trivial. Underlying data stores almost always offer easy built-in backup mechanisms. Indeed, the ability to back up data is a certification requirement for EMRs, as well as a HIPAA and HITECH legal requirement. This strategy also offers “perfect” data fidelity, as the data is in the raw, original format.
health-data-archive-fidelity
Once it actually comes time to access the “archived” data, however, the organization is forced to fully reverse engineer the underlying database schemas and file system encodings. This leads to mammoth costs and protracted timelines for even simple data visualization, and it’s a major undertaking to offer any kind of significant direct clinician or compliance access to data.

Another danger with raw database backups is that many clinical system vendors have language in their licensing related to the “reverse engineering” of their products. So while it may be “your” data, the vendor may consider their schema intellectual property — and the act of deciphering it, not to mention keeping a copy of it after the licensing agreements with the system vendor have been terminated — may well be a direct violation of the original licensing agreement.

Hybrid Modeled / Extracted Schema
extracted-schema-data-archiving
A common approach utilized by healthcare-specific archival solutions is to create a lightweight EMR and practice management schema that includes the most common data attributes from many different source system vendors and then map the data in the source system to this fully modeled schema. The mapping involved is usually limited to fieldtype mapping rather than dictionary mapping, although occasionally, dictionary data which feeds user interface aspects such as grouping (problem categories, for instance) may require some high-level mapping.

This approach usually yields excellent clinical accessibility because the vendor can create highly focused clinical workflows just like an EMR vendor can. Since these visualizations don’t need to be created or altered based on the source system being archived, it means that there is generally no data visualization implementation cost.
healthcare-data-archiving
As the mapping is limited to the schema, the extraction and load phase is usually not as expensive as a full EMR data migration, but because every required source field must have a place in the target archival schema, the process is typically more time-consuming and expensive than the hybrid modeled / extracted schema or non-discrete document approaches. That said, vendors that have a solid library of extraction processes for various source systems can often offer lower initial implementation costs than would otherwise be possible.

The compliance accessibility and data fidelity of this strategy can be problematic, however, as unknown fields are often dropped and data types are frequently normalized. This fundamentally alters a substantial portion of the data being archived in the same way that a full data migration can — although, again, not as severely given the typical lack of data dictionary mapping requirements. In some cases, vendors will recommend that a full backup of the original data be kept in addition to the “live” archive, providing some level of data fidelity problem mitigation. Should a compliance request require this information, however, the organization may be left in a similar position to those utilizing raw data backups or extracted schema stores with no pre-built visualizations.

Archival solutions utilizing this strategy may also frequently require augmentation by the vendor as new sources of data are encountered. This can make the implementation phase longer, as those changes typically need to happen before any data can be loaded.

Summary
There will never be a one-size-fits-all archival solution across organizations, and even within an organization, when determining the strategy for multiple systems. Another key takeaway is to always be wary of all the “phases of implementation.” Many vendors will attempt to win deals with quick and inexpensive initial implementations, but they leave significant work for when the data actually needs to be visualized in a meaningful way. That task either falls on the organization, or it must be further contracted with the archival solution provider.

It also is valuable to consider solutions specifically designed for archival purposes and, ideally, one that focuses on the healthcare sector. There are simply too many archival-specific scenarios to utilize a general purpose data backup, and many organizations find that the healthcare-specific requirements make general purpose archival products ill-suited for their needs.

Download Galen Healthcare’s full archival whitepaper to evaluate available EMR data migration & EMR data archival options and processes critical to EMR replacement and legacy system decommissioning.

About Robert Downey
Robert is Vice President, Product Development, at Galen Healthcare Solutions. He has nearly 10 years of healthcare IT experience and over 20 years in Software Engineering. Robert is responsible for design and development of Galen’s products and supporting technology, including the VitalCenter Online Archival solution. He is an expert in healthcare IT and software development, as well as cloud based solutions delivery. Connect with Robert on LinkedIn.

About Galen Healthcare Solutions
Galen Healthcare Solutions is an award-winning, #1 in KLAS healthcare IT technical & professional services and solutions company providing high-skilled, cross-platform expertise and proud sponsor of the Tackling EHR & EMR Transition Series. For over a decade, Galen has partnered with more than 300 specialty practices, hospitals, health information exchanges, health systems and integrated delivery networks to provide high-quality, expert level IT consulting services including strategy, optimization, data migration, project management, and interoperability. Galen also delivers a suite of fully integrated products that enhance, automate, and simplify the access and use of clinical patient data within those systems to improve cost-efficiency and quality outcomes. For more information, visit www.galenhealthcare.com. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.