When the Texas City Urgent Care clinic opened on Oct. 3, UTMB’s Epic Support team was there to help ensure every patient received the best care.
Although team members don’t provide hands-on medical care, the expert support they provide to physicians, nurses and other caregivers regarding UTMB’s electronic health record has a significant impact on the care patients receive.
“Whenever a new hospital, clinic or provider joins UTMB, we go onsite and assist staff with their new workflow,” said Chris Jenogan, a computer operations supervisor who leads the Epic Support team. “We’re there to answer questions, keep their daily operations running smoothly and help them be as efficient as possible. Providers may only have five to 10 minutes in between patients, so documenting efficiently and accurately in the electronic medical record is critical.”
The Epic electronic medical record is a paperless version of a patient’s medical history that is maintained by providers over time. It may include key information relevant to an individual’s care, including demographics, progress notes, problems, medications, vital signs, medical history and more. Instead of sorting through paper charts, those involved in the patient’s care can access the information instantly and securely.
“Digital technology has really transformed the way we communicate and deliver health care,”said Jenogan. “Our team stays current with all the new optimizations and nuances of the software so they can help users with any possible question. They have to know everything about Epic from the scheduling piece when a patient is admitted, to how a patient is discharged.”
The Texas City clinic opening went smoothly, with support team members assisting providers until the clinic closed at 10 p.m. They made sure all electronic prescriptions were sent to pharmacies and all patient encounters were closed out for the day. Then they came back the next day to do it all over again.
Dr. Kent Anthony, one of the urgent care physicians, greatly appreciated the on-site help from the Epic team.
“Epic is a large language to learn,” he said. “I understand a colleague who said it takes a couple of years to actually learn it, but because of the good teaching by the Epic team, I am functioning well in just a couple of weeks.”
But opening a clinic isn’t the end of the Epic support team’s job. The 11-member group receives between 200 and 250 calls a week and has a 24/7 on-call option for providers who need help in the middle of the night. They can also be found helping out during Epic training classes on the Galveston Campus and making daily rounds at the League City and Angleton Danbury campuses.
“Providers may see 20 or more patients a day, so they may not always have time to call us with questions at a particular instance,” said Cordell Richards, an applications system associate analyst and one of the Epic Support Team members who make stops at all League City Campus Hospital departments each day. “So when I show up in front of them, they can show me what’s going on and they don’t have to wait on the phone. I also try to educate them on ‘smart phrases’ in Epic, which is where they can type in a keyword and it will create an entire document—they can just jump in and fill in the missing fields. Anything we can do to make their job easier is a win for us.”
When Richards encounters new providers, he will often sit next to the physician during patient visits, providing support and a little bit of coaching.
“I’ll follow along down the line of things they need to document in Epic, from updating the patient’s current list of medications to closing the patient encounter,” said Richards. “Coaching them on the different topics they need to discuss with each patient is important. We encourage physicians to always document with the patient in the room and show them ways to do it without turning their back to the patient.”
If the Epic Support team can’t resolve an issue immediately, they will escalate it to other Epic experts at UTMB. But they always strive to provide Best Care by getting questions answered and issues resolved as quickly as possible, so providers can focus on their patients and care is documented properly.
“We take care of our health care staff so they can take care of their patients,” said Jenogan. “If they are able to do their job well and efficiently, then we’ve done our job.”