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Published in CenterView on January 14, 2013

State-of-the-art system offers one-stop shop for pre-Epic data retrieval

By Bruce Coleman

A new Web-based application now being deployed at the University of Mississippi Medical Center promises to be a one-stop shop for the retrieval of historical (pre-Epic) patient data.

By transferring historical data from UMMC’s electronic health records portal to DataArk, a state-of-the-art health-care information system, the Division of Information Systems expects to maintain business operations, reduce costs and keep the institution compliant with all federal and state data-retention requirements.

“The Medical Center is using DataArk to house our historical information – InVision, the EHR portal and Signature at first,” said Sharonda Ivy, clinical systems application coordinator. “During 2013, we will be able to add laboratory, pharmacy, respiratory and additional legacy data.

“As we go forward, we hope to put everything into DataArk so users can go to one location to find their historical patient information or billing.”

Monte LThe project, led by Monte Luehlfing, IT project manager, involved a number of UMMC employees and outside contractors. Tom Smith, senior director of information technology, said after an exhaustive discovery process by DIS leaders, DataArk emerged as the strongest solution to deliver next-generation legacy data information storage capabilities at the Medical Center.

“We had many requirements that only DataArk could fulfill,” Smith said. “We have 17 legacy applications to be loaded into DataArk. That represents data in many formats.

“DataArk’s ability to handle the different formats was significant.”

The cost savings to the institution is expected to be significant, too. Smith estimates that, once fully deployed later this year, DataArk will save the Medical Center as much as $13 million over the next three years, including $6 million this year alone.

Although a significant amount of those savings is in licensing fees, another large portion is represented by equipment costs. DataArk will maintain the bulk of the Medical Center’s legacy information in its secure data center “cloud” – as a result, the information no longer will be maintained on campus.

Most importantly, given the age of the Medical Center’s legacy data, access to the information will be much less cumbersome.

“It’s a new technology and it’s easier to configure to our needs,” said Smith.

“We wanted a simple process for users to access the information they need in a reasonable amount of time,” Ivy said. “Individuals who have practiced on it think it’s a very easy system compared to what we had with the EHR portal.

“Now, they’re able to filter out information rather than having to search for patient information. The only real difference is the display and some additional functions.”

Those additional features serve to enhance the institution’s ability to meet third-party requirements for the storage and retrieval of patient data, according to Smith. 
“Regulatory agencies require us to maintain data up to 23 years,” he said.

DIS leaders are well aware of the initial challenges involved in adapting to a new broad-based data system. To train clinicians and other health-care providers and staff on DataArk’s capabilities, DIS has disseminated documents throughout campus and offered educational programs on HealthStream to explain how to navigate all of DataArk’s nuances.

Smith is confident the DataArk system is intuitive enough for most UMMC staff to understand quickly.
“As people become more familiar with DataArk, the information will be easily accessed,” he said.

For more information about logging in and using DataArk, call the Service Desk at 4-1145 or visit

InVisioning a rich future

The Medical Center’s conversion to DataArk represents the end of an era for what once was the most robust and essential software program in the institution’s rich history.

Although its main functions had essentially been replaced when UMMC converted to Epic last June, InVision continued to serve as a legacy data storage system until the recent deployment of DataArk. Still, InVision will maintain a special place in the history of information technology at the Medical Center.
“InVision was the first comprehensive hospital information system that we ever had,” said Richard Everitt, Epic integration specialist who served as a database administrator when InVision went into production on Dec. 13, 1997. “It was a fully sophisticated system for its time.

“It was where all the academic medical centers were going.”

Everitt said the Medical Center used InVision primarily for patient admissions and registration, the management of patients at UMMC facilities, and hospital billing. Although its online ordering capabilities were limited, most lab test ordering was done through InVision.

He said InVision’s biggest strength was its consolidation of various “home-grown” systems that had sprung up throughout the ‘90s.

“At the time we implemented InVision, we had a variety of applications that were mostly written in-house,” Everitt said. “Some of them integrated well, but most didn’t. And some didn’t have the full breadth of capabilities that were needed.

“InVision had the ability to track patients, track charges and integrate with other vital applications like Meditech and radiology and pharmacy systems. It was a stepping stone that allowed us to integrate systems that were not part of the InVision line.”

Over the years, it became clear that InVision’s limitations would require replacement with a more modern, robust and integrated platform. DIS personnel began searching for other provider order-entry systems as early as 2004, but the magnitude of the capital required to convert the entire Medical Center to a new system was prohibitive at that time. So InVision kept right on performing.
“Being a full-functioning hospital information system, InVision grew to be much bigger and more expensive to maintain,” Everitt said. “The costs are much less with DataArk, and the new technology saves the institution support and ancillary costs.

“But InVision took a broad spectrum of operations and integrated them tightly into one system. It was exactly what was needed by this institution at the time.”