I directed communications during the largest single-build implementation of an Epic electronic health record system. We transformed 27 hospitals ranging from small rural facilities to 700-plus-bed medical centers, along with hundreds of clinics, across five states. It was a major upheaval that impacted 70,000 employees/physicians, and we knew it would be challenging – but we weren’t expecting this…

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A seismic change to an organization or to its core operations is hard enough to accomplish, but from a communications standpoint, it’s even more challenging when the change initiative itself changes along the way.

After going live on Epic at six hospitals and dozens of clinics within four months, our leadership realized that the initial, highly aggressive go-live schedule could not be maintained. Problematic areas included: building unique lab interfaces for every hospital and clinic group; getting revenue cycle processes up and running (ex: charge capture); and getting physicians across the system to agree to standardized order sets.

After having trumpeted “full steam ahead” for many months, we suddenly needed to explain the need for a 6-month pause in hospital go-lives so that the Epic team could fix, complete, or improve a whole bunch of things. Ambulatory go-live waves of clinics, however, continued during this period.

We needed to get it right and also reinforce the fact that we are a “learning” organization that expects to make mistakes, and expects to learn from them.

What didn’t change: the executive sponsors’ involvement and commitment to the objective and the program. Strategically we remained consistent; tactically we were flexible. During the inpatient go-live pause, twelve high-priority workgroups hammered out specific deliverables. Communications were open, transparent, positive, and frequent.

With new insights, the go-live engine began to purr again after the pause, and all hospitals and clinics are now online, connected, sharing data and better serving patient communities.

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