Mayo Clinic Health System making switch to Epic medical record software

An area health care system is making technology upgrades, including a major switch to a new health care record system.

Mayo Clinic and its locations across the country are moving to Epic Systems, a health care software company founded in Madison that now holds the medical records of over half the patients in the country.

The national switchover is starting in La Crosse and Eau Claire, and staff have been busy locally getting the hang of the new system.

“Over 100 years ago, Dr. Henry Plummer created first medical record that could be shared between providers at Mayo,” Mayo chief medical officer David Rushlow said. “Imagine that before that, doctors were keeping post-it notes of patients and keeping them in their offices.”

Since then, the system for keeping patients’ medical records has changed quite a bit, but its importance has only grown.

“I can’t think of anything more important than health records,” Rushlow said.

As a family physician, Rushlow looks to records for test results and input from colleagues to help him make decisions.

“Health care delivery is heavily reliant on being able to move information back and forth, and that’s only becoming greater and greater,” he said.

A greater need calls for an epic change.

“This implementation is huge,” said Tim Johnson, Mayo Southwest Wisconsin regional vice president.

Thousands of La Crosse Mayo employees have been training on Epic systems software since late May. They’re among the first of 51,000 Mayo employees nationwide who will eventually get on board.

“It does create a few special challenges to be first,” Rushlow said.

“For physicians and clinicians, it’s learning how to find data you need for patients,” Johnson said. “If you’re a nurse, it could be how to take orders and transfer them to medications. If you’re a financial person, it’s a whole new set of billing and collection software.”

Johnson said the new system will make it easier to share medical records between Mayo locations and potentially other health systems using Epic down the road.

“I think we will be able to practice medicine more efficiently,” Johnson said.

In general, however, Johnson and Rushlow hope the biggest changes will be behind the scenes.

“When I see my patients talking face to face in the office, I hope they don’t notice it much,” Rushlow said.

Mayo’s Epic system will go live in La Crosse on July 8, and all Mayo Clinic locations will transition to the software by October 2018.

Also coming to La Crosse’s Mayo location in July are new kiosks where patients can sign in before appointments.

Gundersen Health System in La Crosse first implemented Epic software in 2008.