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Published in CenterView on May 14, 2012

DIS staff make final preparations for largest systems implementation in UMMC’s history

By Bruce Coleman

Division of Information Systems staff like to refer to a quote from an article published by a British newspaper before the dawn of the Victorian Era whenever they detect the slightest hint of concern about the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s upcoming launch of Epic.

EPIC headerIn reviewing one of the latest advances in medical technology of the period – the stethoscope – the unknown author of an 1834 London Times article concluded, “that it will ever come into general use, notwithstanding its value, is extremely doubtful; because its beneficial application 
requires much time and gives a good bit of trouble both to the patient and the practitioner; because its hue and character are foreign and opposed to all our habits and associations.”

Fast-forward nearly two centuries – when stethoscopes seem glued around the necks of almost every primary-care physician – and DIS staff say this quote easily could be applied to how many view the June 1 rollout of the institution’s state-of-the-art electronic health records system.

“We thought (this quote) was fitting,” said Nicholas Skinner, IT communication analyst. “It helps to realize that change is not new and it is not necessarily a bad thing.

“It can be uncomfortable, but it can be beneficial in the long run.”

During the last several months, members of the Epic team have been conducting training classes and making plans to help prepare Medical Center staff for the largest systems implementation in the history of the institution.

With the Epic “Go Live” date less than three weeks away, team members want to reassure employees that a wide array of resources will be available to help provide the smoothest systems conversion possible.

Showalter_JohnAccording to Dr. John Showalter, chief medical information officer, at 11 p.m. on Thursday, May 31, all legacy system, including Invision, Signature, RMS and all associated interfaces, will be brought down. At that time, Medical Center staff will need to revert to their standard downtime procedures. Department ancillary systems and the Portal will be available after legacy has been discontinued.

For approximately six hours, the Epic team will go through a series of  technical and application steps to make the final changes before bringing all of the applications live. The Epic team expects to notify all Medical Center staff of full system readiness by 5 a.m. on Friday, June 1.

Swoger_Ellen“It’s not only the largest implementation we’ve ever done, it’s the largest single implementation Epic has ever done,” said Ellen Swoger, chief applications officer. “We expect and are prepared for things to get a bit hectic at Go Live, with consultants running around trying to help everybody. But we will get through it.”
To help minimize any anxiety that may come with transitioning to a new health-records system, the Epic team plans to preload as much information into the system as possible before the Go Live begins. Consider:

•  The Master Patient Index and patient encounter information has been loaded into Epic.
•  From April 23-May 31, patient clinical information is being loaded for ambulatory purposes.
•  From May 18-20, all patient appointments already scheduled on or after June 1 will be loaded into Epic.
•  From May 25-31, all remaining equipment, terminals, monitors and mobile carts used in Epic training classes will be installed on the appropriate floors in University Hospital.
•  On Wednesday, May 30, Medical Center staff will load all clinical information for those patients projected to still be at the Medical Center on June 1.

“Because we know that everyone will be adjusting to the new system at Go Live, we’re going to load everything we can so they won’t have to do that once the system is live,” Showalter said. “This is an integral piece to the implementation. The more we can do prior to Go Live, the easier the transition will be.”

Also helping to ease the transition will be approximately 300 support personnel – from physician super-users to Epic system consultants – who will be on hand throughout the Go Live process to offer personal attention to UMMC employees adjusting to the Epic system.  

“With an implementation of this size, with the number of people that will be directly affected, there’s always going to be a learning curve,” Swoger said. “It’s going to be a trying time for all of our end-users. But all we ask of them is, if they need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

“If they’re not comfortable with something, there will be plenty of people around to help.” 

For more information about the Epic implementation at UMMC, visit or type “epic” into the address line on any network-connected computer.