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Mayo Clinic Investing $1.5 Billion in HIPAA Compliant EHR System

The Rochester, MN-based Mayo Clinic – the world’s first and largest integrated not-for-profit medical group practice – has invested $1.5 billion in a new HIPAA compliant EHR system. The Mayo Clinic chose Epic, a leading EHR provider whose systems are used to store and maintain the electronic health records of more than 190 million patients.

Up until recently, the Mayo Clinic has been using three EHR systems, provided by General Electric and Cerner Corp. The new EHR system – An integrated electronic medical record and billing system – will see those three systems combined into one.

$1.5 billion is a sizable investment, but it was necessary. Operating three separate EHR systems is far from ideal. It means staff need to learn how to use multiple systems, inefficiencies are introduced that are difficult to resolve, and multiple systems inevitably lead to interoperability issues that have potential to hamper collaboration. The new single HIPAA compliant EHR system will help the Mayo Clinic store, use, and share patient health information more efficiently and better serve its patients.

The single HIPAA compliant EHR system will house all patient records and will be used to store, access, and transmit health data from all of the Mayo Clinic facilities. The new system will be used for everything from consultations to recording medications, details of allergies, and physician’s notes, as well as for billing. When the system is implemented, patients will receive a uniform bill for medical services, regardless of where they live and which Mayo Clinic facilities they visited.

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Planning the upgrade first started in early 2015. It has taken more than two years to reach the point where the new system can be rolled out. The Epic EHR rollout – which it certainly is – is not straightforward for an organization the size of the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic has more than 200,000 patient records, multiple campuses, and facilities spread across several states. The company also employs more than 51,000 members of staff, all of whom will need to be trained to use of the new system. Understandably, the rollout has been scheduled to take place over several months.

That process has now started. The Mayo Clinic transitioned to the new EHR system in its La Crosse, Onalaska, Prairie du Chien and Sparta facilities in Wisconsin on July 8, which will allow the organization to conduct comprehensive tests before rolling out the new HIPAA compliant EHR system to all of its facilities in the United States.

The second phase of the rollout, scheduled to take place this November, will see the Mayo Clinic Health System sites in Minnesota move to the new EHR system, followed by the Rochester, MN facility in May 2018 and its Arizona and Florida facilities in October 2018.

The phased rollout is not without its problems. Until all locations transition to the new single HIPAA compliant EHR system, physicians in one location will not automatically be able to view records on the Epic system stored in another facility. To get around the problem, the Mayo Clinic is using separate software to allow the information to be viewed.

The massive migration has been given the name ‘The Plummer Project,’ taking its name from Dr. Henry Plummer, the pioneer of the consolidated medical record. Plummer, an early leader at the Mayo Clinic, recognized the problems that come from storing patient health records in multiple locations. At the time, each medical facility would store patient health information in a ledger. A separate ledger was maintained at each facility, so a patient may have their health information spread across several ledgers, stored in multiple locations.

Plummer devised a new way of recording patient health information – A single dossier-style medical record system with patient records maintained in a central location. Each time information was recorded, it was added to the dossier. The new system was put in place on July 1, 1907, more than 110 years ago.

Plummer also worked closely with the company’s founders, the Mayo brothers, and devised a new organizational structure termed the integrated multispecialty group practice. This method of providing care allowed patients to be treated by a team of specialists, a major contribution to modern medicine.

Plummer also helped develop a method of transferring information from one treatment area to another, using a system of pneumatic tubes to send patient records to where they were needed. It is therefore fitting for the implementation of the new HIPAA compliant EHR system to bear his name.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.