When your healthcare organization needs to upgrade your current Epic system to a newer or more advanced version, that’s considered an Epic upgrade. This improved version allows your healthcare facility staff to have the optimal Epic experience with each upgrade addressing one or more facets of the software. One, for example, may add new features to the system, perhaps to enhance data management and analytics, while the next may further safeguard your application in secure, regulatory-compliant ways—while yet another may smooth out bugs in the software.
Although the specifics of each Epic upgrade will vary, the goal is the same: to improve the overall experience and benefit both patients and healthcare organizations. In each case, by having the current version of the application, your organization will keep receiving support from Epic.
Addressing Challenges with Epic Upgrades
To successfully upgrade Epic software, however, certain challenges must be addressed—and here is information about some of the most common.
Clarity About the Specifics
Here’s the good news: Epic is a powerful application, indeed! Because it’s so robust, though, it can be quite complex—and so it takes an experienced eye to understand the elements of an upgrade and how its implementation will impact the healthcare organization’s hardware, software, interfaces, and more.
Plus, an Epic upgrade may be operationally essential—or it could be optional. Again, it takes specialized knowledge to determine if an optional upgrade would benefit the healthcare organization.
Need for Significant Planning
Although Epic upgrades are not as complex as the initial implementation of the software, this isn’t a plug-in-and-play endeavor, either. Just like with an Epic implementation, you will need to inform hospital leaders and key stakeholders of the upgrade and get their commitment; lay out the scope of a project, including tasks, goals, timelines, and deadlines; document steps and results; and more.
When this planning doesn’t take place, the results are typically predictable with the healthcare organization running into often-expensive pitfalls and not fully benefiting from the upgrade’s potential.
Technical Complexities and Infrastructure Requirements
To use the Epic system, a healthcare organization must have the appropriate technical infrastructure to support the application and its architecture. Then, when an update occurs, infrastructure specifics can change. This can include both hardware and software, which will trigger the need for an infrastructure review before the upgrade takes place. Your healthcare organization will receive a tech document from Epic that lists the minimum requirements—the responsibility for ensuring these are carried out falls on the shoulders of the healthcare facilities themselves.
So, you’ll need to know whether your servers and processors have the bandwidth needed to meet minimum standards and an understanding of where infrastructure refresh may be needed.
Additionally, an analysis will need to be performed to see if third-party software will still integrate with the Epic system, post-upgrade, and how smoothly it will operate. Workstations and their peripherals (such as scanners, printers, and so forth) will also need to be checked to see if they will integrate with the Epic upgrade—and, if not, what hardware upgrades are needed. It’s important to know this information ahead of time instead of after the upgrade because Epic will not be responsible for conflicts in your technology.
Plus, when receiving test scripts for the update, they may only serve as the foundation of what needs to be done in this area. In other words, they may need to be built upon and enhanced, and this step can have a significant effect on the project’s success and how smoothly the update takes place. When analyzing test scripts, don’t overlook smaller workflows. Although they may not have as much impact as larger ones, skipping them will hurt the upgrade’s overall integrity.
Here’s something else to consider. The addition or alteration of one element in the Epic system can affect other elements in your overall technology in often unexpected ways. So, in your analyses, thoroughly check compatibility issues across technologies.
Change Management: Staff Training and User Adoption
Change management is never an add-on. With Epic upgrades, ensure from the start that you document how this software change will impact end users and their workflows across roles in your healthcare organization. This will allow you to appropriately train your teams in engaging, interactive ways and minimize disruption as user adoption takes place.
Having a change management professional on your team can go a long way in smoothly overcoming any bumps by focusing on the positive changes included in the Epic upgrade and guiding them in areas where they still need to adjust.
Although concerns about cybersecurity are much broader than upgrades to your Epic system—or to electronic health records—it’s vital to manage your upgrade in ways that are safe and secure. While awareness of cybersecurity is front and center during the upgrade process, you can use the situation as an opportunity to assess your cybersecurity overall and create a culture of security to protect patients and your healthcare organization.
Strategies to Overcome Epic Upgrade Challenges
For a seamless Epic upgrade, it’s crucial to thoroughly understand the upgrade specifics from the beginning. You can then create a comprehensive plan for the upgrade, taking the technical complexities and infrastructure requirements into account, and develop a meaningful change management strategy that includes highly effective training and process documentation to encourage user adoption. You can then implement, integrate, and optimize the upgrade in safe, secure, compliant ways.
Fortunately, HealthTECH Resources can help throughout this entire process—thanks to our boutique-style firm’s exceptional leadership and extensive network of specialized EHR consulting professionals who are highly skilled in Epic technology, overall, and EHR upgrades, more specifically.
HealthTECH Resources can help you fill in your staffing gaps with experts who specialize in:
- Project management and planning
- EHR analysis
- Implementation, integration, and optimization
- End-user training and process documentation
- Go live cutovers
- Change management
- Cybersecurity services
- Technical support
If your healthcare facility’s IT department is overwhelmed by the complexities of an upcoming Epic upgrade, reach out for experienced guidance online or by calling (602) 903-7961 today.
PRESIDENT/CEO AT HEALTHTECH RESOURCES
Larry has specialized in building strategic healthcare relationships for over 25 years, helping the nation’s top payors and providers solve some of their most pressing business challenges through an intelligent mix of staffing services, training, and consulting.