Rollout of New Electronic Medical Record Partnership is an “Epic” Achievement

Partnership between UCR and UCSD is first of its kind among UC Health organizations

staff in yellow hard hats

The UCR SOM Office of Information Technology team donned hard hats to install the new systems at the offices at Citrus Tower. From left to right, Jorge Gutierrez, Jeff Flogerzi, Omar Casillas, Daniel Nguyen, Jimmy Aldape, Ruben Ramirez, and Pedro Villa.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Somewhat overshadowed by the fanfare of the grand opening of the new UCR Health at Citrus Tower offices was an announcement on May 8 that UCR Health had officially begun using the Epic Electric Medical Record (EMR) system in each of its clinical sites as part of a partnership with UC San Diego Health.

Founded in a Wisconsin garage in 1979, Epic has grown into one of the leading EMR systems in the world, accounting for more than 190 million patient records, including more than 50% of the records in the United States. This ubiquity creates great potential benefits for UCR Health patients.

“For example, if a patient is visiting a UCR Health physician for the first time and shares that they previously visited a physician that used Epic, anywhere in the world, we can query and receive their medical records in just a matter of minutes,” explained Interim Chief Medical Information Officer John Luo, M.D. “It also provides benefits to physicians through population health tools, best practice alerts, and a number of quality improvements created by UCSD Health.”

While UC San Diego Health has used Epic since 2005, and it is used across the UC Health system, the partnership marks the first time that two UC Health organizations have shared the same instance of the Epic system.

“Having UCR healthcare data in Epic makes it easier for researchers to combine that data with data from the other UC Health Systems,” Luo added. “The combined dataset of all UC Health systems together will provide unique insights for research.  For example, if one UC health system has best practices for managing opiate prescribing in Epic, we can easily adopt those decision supports as well.”

“UC San Diego Health is thrilled to be working together with both UCR Health and UC Irvine Health on health informatics opportunities,” said UC San Diego Health Chief Information Officer and Clinical Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics Christopher A. Longhurst, M.D., M.S., whose duties include oversight of the team that implemented Epic at UCR Health.

Fittingly, the story of the implementation had “epic” qualities of its own. For example, while the UCR School of Medicine Office of Information Technology (OIT) team was working with the UCSD Health Information Services team over an expedited 10-week time frame to install Epic at the existing UCR Health sites, the team was also responsible for installing all the computers, printers and software necessary for the day-to-day operations at the two Citrus Tower clinics in time for the facilities’ soft opening on May 1.

“It was two projects in one. We had already tested Epic at the Silver Oaks, Riverbrock and Airport Towers sites before we got to Citrus Tower, but there it was two projects going on simultaneously,” Chief Technology Officer Armando Gauna said. “It was challenging, because Epic alone was a huge project.”

At Citrus Tower, it was necessary for the IT crew to don hard hats while installing and testing equipment and software as construction crews completed plumbing, electrical and painting work.

Omar Casillas, an instructional support analyst in OIT, said that wearing the bright yellow hats with the UCR Health logo were a little awkward at first, but gave him a sense of pride during the project.

“It was pretty neat wearing the UCR brand. It gave us a sense of the importance of what we were doing,” he said.

“Finishing both projects in the time allotted was no small feat,” Luo said. “There were many late hours and trips to each of our clinical sites by our team members. In the end, the UCSD team told me our ‘go-live’ was considered to be one of the most successful they have had.”

“It was a team effort for both sides,” Gauna added. “We learned a lot from each other.”

The systems were tested and the team troubleshot issues as the clinics saw patients in the areas of women’s health, neurosurgery and pain management, psychiatry, neurology, neuropsychology, plastic surgery, and primary care.

“Our team rolled up their sleeves, got in and did the work. They worked late hours and weekends to complete these two projects,” Gauna said. “They never complained, and there was a great sense of accomplishment when we were done, from both our team and the UC San Diego team. It was a great experience for us.”

“I couldn’t be any happier with what they have done for the School of Medicine,” he added.

group photo

The partnership between UCR Health and UC San Diego Health marked a significant milestone in the history of the UC Health organization as the first time that two member organizations are sharing the same instance of the Epic EMR system. Celebrating the accomplishment, from left to right, are Mark Amey, Associate CIO, UC San Diego Health; William Showalter, CIO, UC Davis Health; Joe Bengfort, CIO, UC San Francisco; Christopher Longhurst, MD, CIO and Clinical Professor, UC San Diego Health; John Luo, MD, CMIO, UCR Health; Danna Gianforte, Associate Vice Chancellor and CIO, UC Riverside; and Tom Andriola, CIO, UC Office of the President.

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