Tanner Prepares for an ‘Epic’ Transformation

In Bremen, patients are awaking in a new post-anesthesia care unit following surgical procedures in a host of new operating suites that enable surgeons to offer the latest, most advanced minimally invasive procedures available. In Villa Rica, patients are also benefiting from a new, state-of-the-art surgical services unit, as well as a massive new emergency department. In Wedowee, Alabama, an entirely new hospital facility is providing an ever-expanding range of care to the east Alabama region, and in Carrollton, the massive, 130,000-square-foot Tanner Health Pavilion approaches completion by the end of the year.


But as Tanner Health System has invested in new hospitals, surgery suites and other facilities in the past two years to transform where patients receive care, more quietly, the health system has also been hard at work transforming how.


On Monday, July 1, Tanner launched a new electronic health record (EHR) platform, which, by the end of 2019, will link all its hospitals, clinics and healthcare providers to deliver more accurate and accessible patient health information while improving the overall efficiency of care and empowering patients to take a greater role in their own health.


And the rollout started where many patients begin their Tanner relationship: in the almost 40 Tanner Medical Group outpatient clinics and urgent care facilities throughout the region.


In November, the five hospitals will be brought online to complete the transformation.


More than any single building or service, the new EHR will transform how Tanner delivers care to west Georgia and east Alabama.


“Our mission is to advance health in the communities we serve,” said Loy Howard, president and CEO of Tanner. “That’s a commitment we’ve made to our neighbors, and we take it seriously.”


In the process, Tanner is continuing to add high-value healthcare and technical jobs, contribute to the local economy and improve the quality of life in the communities in which it operates.


In March 2018, Tanner announced it would partner with Verona, Wisconsin-based Epic Systems Corporation on its new EHR throughout the organization’s hospitals and Tanner Medical Group practices. Epic is the No. 1 EHR in the United States and one of the leading EHRs throughout the world, securing the vital health records for more than 200 million people. An internal panel of Tanner physicians and team members helped evaluate competing EHR systems, ultimately choosing Epic.


The Epic platform is based on the “one patient, one record” concept: a single, secure record to document diagnoses, treatments, medical histories and more for each patient. In addition, Epic offers the MyChart patient application, enabling patients to use their internet-connected devices — tablets, phones and computers — to access their personal health information, schedule or change appointments, get test results, request prescription refills and more. The system also offers provisions for individuals caring for young children or aging parents to manage their care as well.


“Currently, our hospitals are on one system, our Tanner Medical Group practices are on another, and some of our emergency departments use yet a third,” said Greg Schulenburg, senior vice president and chief information officer for Tanner. “The information is there, but it takes time and effort to piece together the whole picture of the patient’s health. Epic will change that, improving care and efficiency in the process.”


With Epic, according to Schulenburg, the same record will follow the patient from the clinic exam room to the emergency department, to the surgical suite to the hospital bedside.


“That’s ‘one patient, one record,’” said Schulenburg. “Every note, every prescription, every test result, right at the provider’s fingertips, so he or she can make the most informed decisions regarding patient care.”


And not just from Tanner, but from any other healthcare organization that uses the Epic platform as well.


“The installation of our new EHR is a win-win for our patients and our team,” said Howard. “Our team members chose the healthcare field because they want to help people, and this new system will enable them to do that more effectively and efficiently.”


To manage this “epic” change in patient care, Tanner has established a project team of more than 100 people — including IT professionals from the health system’s own team and across the country, as well as clinical professionals working to ensure the platform best meets the needs of basic care.


Tanner’s Epic project team has strong medical expertise: almost 35% of the team is comprised of nurses, physicians, pharmacists and other clinical professionals, many of whom were with Tanner before joining the team and have brought valuable institutional knowledge to the project.


“These experts not only support our EHR implementation and team but also our local economy, investing in hotel rooms, meals and other travel expenses in the communities Tanner calls home,” said Howard.


Virtually every one of Tanner’s 3,400 team members will undergo some form of training on the new system, whether they are a volunteer pulling up patient room information for visitors or a physician in the emergency department accessing recent scans for a patient arriving with chest pain.


“Our Tanner team members are excited about what the benefits a new, single EHR will mean for patient care and efficiency,” said Howard. “Many of them are familiar with Epic from their work with other organizations and encouraged us to implement the platform.”


More information about Tanner’s new EHR can be found by visiting www.tanner.org/epic-focus.