(St. Ignatius, Mont.) — Tribal Health is going EPIC. EPIC is the name of a new electronic health records system adopted by Tribal Health to improve the delivery of health care services to recipients.

To help Tribal Health recipients and staff understand what this means for them, here are some commonly asked questions and answers below:

Q. Why Go EPIC?
A. Right now, Tribal Health is using an old, antiquated electronic health records (EHR) system that was used by the Indian Health Service, called RPMS. As of today, this old system is not meeting the needs of Tribal Health.

Q. Why can’t Tribal Health keep using the current electronic health records system?
A. In the near future RPMS will no longer be supported and viable. As CSKT Tribal Health continues to pioneer a new way of delivering health care to our community, Tribal Health has decided to get ahead of the curve and adopt the new electronic health record (EHR) called EPIC.

Q. Why choose EPIC?
A. EPIC is going to improve the health care and records of all Tribal Health recipients by streamlining workflows of staff and health care providers, in addition to improving the business processes to help bring Tribal Health to a new standard of delivering health care to the community.

Q. What is an Electronic Health Record (EHR)?
A. An Electronic Health Record (EHR) is an electronic version of a recipients medical history, that is maintained by the health care provider over time, and may include all of the key clinical data relevant to the recipients care under a particular provider, including demographics, progress notes, problems, medications, vital signs, past medical history, immunizations, laboratory data and radiology reports.

EPIC will help strengthen the relationship between recipients and their health care providers. With EPIC, there is better access to data, allowing providers to make better decisions and provide better care.

For example, EPIC will improve recipient care by:
• Reducing the incidence of medical error by improving the accuracy and clarity of medical records;
• Making the health information more available to the provider(s), reducing duplication of tests, reducing delays in treatment, and assisting recipients to be better informed to make better health related decisions.

Q. What is valuable about moving to this new electronic health records system?
A. One valuable aspect of EPIC includes the ability to become part of the larger Providence network of health care that includes St. Patrick Hospital; Providence St. Josephs Medical Center; St Joseph Medical Clinic - Polson; and St. Joseph Medical Clinic - Ronan.

In addition to linking into the Providence network of health care, Tribal Health will also be able to access the data available regarding recipient care (obtained outside of Tribal Health) such as radiology images, and lab results to name a few.

Internally, the EPIC user interface and efficiency in processes will help Tribal Health providers provide better health care while Tribal Health business staff will be able to implement improved business practices.

One other great benefit with being more integrated with the regional health care network is that Tribal Health recipients will now get more timely access (i.e., immediately as needed) to MRI and mammograms within the Providence network verses waiting for the mobile units that parked outside of the Tribal Health facilities every two weeks.

Q. How will recipients be affected by these changes?
A. Tribal Health is working hand-in-hand with technical staff to make the transition to EPIC smooth. Staff are being trained as well in the new systems as they go live. During the transition phase, recipients may be asked to verify their demographic records to ensure that they are correct and accurate moving forward.

As each new change unfolds, Tribal Health is working to inform staff and the public about what is happening, why and when.

Q. Will Tribal Health recipients also get additional access to their health care information through EPIC?
A. Yes, EPIC allows for the implementation of an online connection to recipients’ health care providers, through software called MyChart.

MyChart is a free service that gives secure, online access to a recipient’s health care team and medical record — wherever and whenever they want.

With MyChart, recipients will be able to:

  • Review medications, immunizations and medical history;
  • Communicate with their health care team;
  • Request prescription renewals;
  • Review results for most tests;
  • Get clinic after-visit summaries;
  • Schedule the next primary care appointment;
  • Receive electronic statements and pay bills.

Q. Are there other software programs that will fit into the new Tribal Health electronic health records system besides just EPIC?
A. Yes, because Tribal Health is unique in the population it serves, it’s funding sources and the rich network of services that are offered— Tribal Health is adopting other systems to integrate with EPIC to make the business of delivering health care services to recipients run smoothly.

Some of the new software includes Pioneer (for the Pharmacy program); Dentrix (for the Dental program) and Nuvodia (an Inland Imaging program for the new Personal Archiving Communications System also called PACS for viewing radiology images).

Q. What is the timeline for adopting EPIC?
A. Tribal Health has begun the process of adopting the new electronic health records system called EPIC. As of May 2017, Dentrix is now live and working for the Dental program. Nuvodia is slated to start July 18, 2017, and Pioneer is scheduled to start on August 1, 2017. All of these additional software systems will operate under the EPIC umbrella which will go live for the rest of Tribal Health in December 2017.

Q. How is Tribal Health preparing for the transition to EPIC?
A. Currently, the transition to EPIC includes a lot of technical work behind the scenes, first through identifying the specific needs of Tribal Health, then writing specific programming that will then be uploaded as the new system goes live in December.

Staff are being briefed and introduced to the new aspects of the system, with training to follow as necessary. Hardware is being evaluated and replaced with needed. Some updates of current software is also be implemented.

Q. How are changes about the transition to EPIC being broadcasted?
A. Tribal Health is using various ways to educate and inform their staff, and the public, about changes during the implementation of EPIC— including posting notices on EPIC bulletin boards that are located throughout Tribal Health facilities, CharKoosta, website, intranet, paycheck flyers, Facebook and email.

As staff continue training to use the new systems, they are also being updated, and in addition, an EPIC Workgroup has been formed, with representatives from each division/department of Tribal Health responsible for communicating information to their respective division/department staff.

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