Universal Health Services (NYSE: UHS) has tapped Oracle to expand its electronic health record (EHR) system across its behavioral health network.
While the provider has used Oracle’s EHR in its acute care hospitals for a decade, expanding the technology into its behavioral health facilities will give it a unified system across the entire organization.
UHS said it sees the system, which will also include registration, intake and scheduling, as a way to help enhance care coordination and workflow efficiencies.
“In a paper-based world, you can imagine the amount of faxes and scanned email documents flowing around,” Eric Goodwin, vice president and chief information officer at Universal Health Services, told Behavioral Health Business. “Now we’re looking at electronic referrals. We are streamlining some admissions decisions, all that prior duplicate data entry and [more].”
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based UHS operates 331 inpatient behavioral health facilities, close to 40 outpatient facilities and 27 acute inpatient care hospitals.
Externally, the system could help boost communication between the provider and its payer partners.
“One of the complaints we had in our hospitals was, it’s actually hard to communicate with the payers because they had to decipher a handwritten chart,” Goodwin said. “With our utilization management or case management teams, now we’re electronically communicating with those payers. I think that’s helping during [patient] hospitalization.”
Historically, behavioral health providers have been slow to adopt EHRs. Many in the industry attribute that to the 2009 HITECH Act, which gave health care providers funding to encourage the “meaningful use” of EHRs, but did not include behavioral health providers.
Still, many clinicians are ready to switch over from paper and pen to an electronic record, Goodwin noted. In fact, he said providers were quick to adopt the new patient safety rounding tool that is on an iPad instead of a clipboard.
“From an implementation standpoint,” he said, “we found that it was necessary to really make sure that the EMR that we selected could be tailored to the BH-specific workflow, such as a master treatment plan and group therapy documentation.”
Goodwin also said it was important to have a dedicated chief medical informatics officer and a chief nursing informatics officer from the behavioral health side to help with implementation.
“I think that really helped tailor the system to make sure that we’re making the right standardization decisions, the right process, decisions, etc.,” Goodwin said.
What the future holds
Implementing an EHR is just one of the building blocks for advancing the company’s use of technology and analytics, Goodwin said.
Data points that the provider tracked manually, such as patient safety measures and physician order entry, can now be linked to the EHR and the enterprise data warehouse.
“Now that we’ve begun to build a larger data set of clinical information, how can we use advanced analytics in a predictive manner?” Goodwin said. “So understanding patient risk and things like that, and just trying to really develop those types of more advanced models to put it back within the workflow and the clinical team to help them inform their treatment decisions.”
Having a data warehouse could also help the company evolve as artificial intelligence becomes a driving force in health care.
“Certainly, we haven’t answered all the questions; I don’t think any of us have, around generative AI and so forth,” Goodwin said. “But, we know that incorporating anything like that in the future is going to require clinical information to flow back and forth … in a manner by which the AI model could consume it, and then that could be potentially presented back to our clinical teams to help in either efficiency or their clinical decision process.”