Albany Medical Center Training Among Last Steps to Initial Epic Launch

A group of Albany Medical Center nurses, nurse anesthetists, residents, and attendings participated in a perioperative simulation as part of their Epic training.

In early March, Albany Medical Center and its clinics will be the first locations within the Albany Med Health System to transition to Epic—the System’s new, unified electronic medical record (EMR). To prepare for the changes ahead, employees have been engaged in training since the start of the new year to get ready to treat patients using the platform on day one of its launch.

This effort has been years in the making and will align the care delivered within the Albany Med Health System. Whether a patient sees their primary care physician at Saratoga Hospital or a specialist at Albany Medical Center, their information will be readily available at every System location, creating seamless coordination among care teams and a better experience for patients.

While many employees have previously worked with Epic, a leading EMR system used at health care organizations nationwide, for others training has been their first introduction to the platform. Director of Quality Management Megan Keenan said that starting her Epic training classes has made her even more excited for the new platform to launch.

“Epic is really a powerhouse tool that will bring us to the next level as a System,” Keenan said.

Currently, there are 11 EMR platforms in use across the System, with each having a different purpose and housing unique information. Keenan’s team in Quality Management frequently has to pull data from the different EMR systems and engage colleagues from other departments to assist. Keenan said it’s a complicated process that will become a thing of the past come March.

“Being in training, I realized that everything we need will be easily accessible in one place,” Keenan said. “As we transition to Epic, the patient safety indicators, the quality metrics, all of these reports will be available to use in real time that we can then use to enlighten not only our teams at Albany Medical Center, but all of our practices across the System.”

Training from Beginning to End

The training is led and has been developed by Albany Med Health System employees. From start to finish, training consists of eLearning modules followed by in-person classes. Staff are also provided with exercise books that can be worked on independently. To obtain their Epic credentials, employees must pass an end user proficiency assessment (EUPA). Depending on an employee’s role and responsibilities, they may have more than one training track and EUPA to complete.

Amanda McDonald and Jason Allen are two of the principal trainers who helped develop the training curriculum, classroom material, and tip sheets. McDonald said that one of the most important things for employees to keep in mind is that help is available, whether in training or following the Epic launch.

“Change is always scary, and sometimes it can be a bit unsettling to switch from a system that you’ve worked with for years to something new,” McDonald said.

Training also doesn’t end in the classroom. There are also activities, which differ by department, to supplement classroom training such as readiness days, day in the life activities, shadow charting, and patient simulations to help employees become familiar with the new EMR system.

“Attending class is only the first step in their training journey,” said Allen. “Employees will be provided with day in the life activities that will help enhance their knowledge of Epic beyond the classroom.”

Patient Simulations

Diana Mosquera, MD, anesthesiologist, associate medical director and assistant dean of health care strategy and clinical transformation at Albany Medical College, helped facilitate a perioperative simulation for a group of Albany Medical Center nurses, nurse anesthetists, residents, and attendings. She said that the simulations are an important step to not only get employees into Epic, but to provide feedback to the project team ahead of the launch.

“The purpose is to get everyone together and into Epic to start completing their regular workflows so they can get a sense of what their day-to-day will look like,” Dr. Mosquera said. “We want people to think—how is my workflow? Is everything working right, and what could be better? We want as much feedback as possible before getting into Epic with real patients.”

Using stand-in patients and manikins, the group walked through reviewing notes, vitals, and labs, checking surgical workstations, and confirming consent forms as well as other portions of their daily workflows in Epic’s playground environment.

“It was a very positive experience,” said Jeananne Shackelton, RN. “From a patient safety standpoint, there are hard stops to make sure that you have all the information you need filled out before moving forward in the patient’s chart. I found the system to be extremely user friendly.”

Prior to the Epic go-live, Dr. Mosquera is collaborating with leaders across Albany Medical Center and the College to plan and carry out simulations in other areas such as the Emergency Department, pediatrics, adult code blue, obstetrics, and acute stroke.

Heightened System Collaboration

From the start of the Epic implementation to training and go-live, the project has been a significant collaborative effort among the hospitals of the Albany Med Health System. While staff from each System campus have had input in the Epic build and configuration, they will also support one another through training and in the weeks surrounding the launch.

From Keenan’s perspective, having trainers who work for and are familiar with the needs of the System is crucial. “Being connected with trainers who understand the actual environment and know how we’re connected as a System, who understand situations from our perspective as trainees was critically important.”

Allen said that the collaboration has been there since the beginning of the project, with System employees coming together to determine standardized workflows and policies that will further unite each campus. Training is another step toward fostering and deepening these connections.

“One of the benefits of this project is that we’re drawing on resources from all four System hospitals, so a lot of our subject matter experts come from each campus,” said Allen. “I think it’s important for folks to know that we have a lot of people dedicated to this project and that we’re going to be there to ensure everyone has the tools they need to do their job, to make this project a success.”

Epic will first launch at Albany Medical Center in March. The next phase of the launch occurs at Columbia Memorial Health, Glens Falls Hospital, and Saratoga Hospital in September.