TUPELO • After years of planning, nearly 2,000 medical professionals and thousands more patients across the region have embarked on a medical record odyssey.

Tupelo-based North Mississippi Health Services threw the switch on its conversion to Epic outpatient medical records two weeks ago. Doctors, advanced practice clinicians, nurses, lab techs and office staff in 90 locations went live at the same time.

The conversion affects North Mississippi Medical Clinics, NMHS affiliated specialty clinics, nursing homes and private practices that partner with the system on its community medical record.

NMHS has been intensively preparing for the changeover for more than a year, working with in-house and outside experts to plan, transfer data and train staff.

“It’s a huge investment in time, energy and money,” said Jim Weldon, NMHS chief information officer. “We did it for our patients.”

The NMMC-Gilmore Amory affiliated clinics are the only ones that didn’t make the leap. Because Gilmore didn’t join the NMHS family until January, there wasn’t enough time to set up the conversion, Weldon said. Its outpatient clinics are slated to transfer to Epic by the end of the year.

Up to date

The new Epic system is much friendlier for both patients and the health care team, said Dr. Ben Kilman, a family physician who serves as NMHS chief medical information officer. The My Connection portal, myconnection.org, which can be accessed by computer or smart phone app, allows patients to review some of their records, request refills, get lab results, make appointments, and ask their medical team questions.

The medical team can set reminders and see notes from other physicians, clinics and pharmacies. Because Epic is so widely used, its exchange platform allows the secure transfer of health information between providers on its system. Kilman, who sees patients in Tupelo and Fulton, has been able to check up on patients at University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“It’s unbelievable the tools it has for doctors and nurses,” Kilman said.

The clinic system has sent out emails to some 50,000 patients inviting them to create a My Connection account. Clinic staff also can help patients establish an account with the portal.

“My Connection is really a game changer,” said David Barber, president of North Mississippi Medical Clinics. “Patients come in more informed about their own health and their own records.”

NMHS joins University of Mississippi Medical Center, Baptist Memorial Health Care and Forrest General among the 64 percent of U.S. hospitals that use Epic. More than 250 million patients in more than 40 countries have a current electronic record in Epic.

What to expect

There are a few extra hoops to jump through as patients come in for the first time since the changeover. Patients will need to have their photo ID and insurance card, and they need to expect some extra questions. The data from the old system was transferred into the Epic record, but the complex process requires verification.

“We want to make sure everything we’re looking at is correct,” Weldon said.

The NMHS will continue to use the Allscripts system for inpatient hospital patients. The two systems allow the hospital team to see the Epic record, and the clinic team can access a summary and other necessary information.

“It really does allow us to connect our system and share information,” Kilman said.

Long history

Electronic medical records have been a part of North Mississippi Health Services since 1983. Although the computer software and hardware have changed, the system still uses the single identifier for each patient it implemented from the beginning.

“It really does allow us to connect our systems and share information,” Weldon said.

The process to find a new clinic medical record system began in 2015, when a team of physicians started looking at new electronic medical record systems for clinics to replace the Logician/Centricity platform that has been used for nearly 20 years.

“It really was led by physicians,” Kilman said.

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