Alberta announces $459 million deal for Epic EMR

Dr Verna YiuEDMONTON – The Alberta Health Services board has approved a $459-million deal with U.S. technology giant Epic Systems to outfit the health authority with an advanced clinical information system.

The agreement includes the installation of software that will form the new Connect Care network, along with ongoing support and staff training, the Edmonton Journal reported.

“When you come to some of these large system implementations, there are really only a few vendors capable of doing something like this,” AHS president and CEO Verna Yiu (pictured) said. “They (Epic) are very well-known, well-established and they have a lot of expertise around big system implementation.”

Epic’s website says the company currently supports electronic medical records for 190 million patients.

Yiu described Connect Care as a massive, “transformative” project that will provide a new, integrated information hub for all of AHS’s clinical care areas, including hospitals, ambulatory clinics and continuing care centres. It is designed to consolidate some 1,300 information systems the health authority is currently using, many of which are badly outdated, unconnected and expensive to maintain.

For patients, the initiative is touted to provide a single medical record that can be accessed at any point in the health system, including by patients themselves. Health professionals, who still use paper for some tasks, will move to more modern processes, while AHS administrators can use data in the platform to improve quality and safety.

The NDP government has committed $400 million over five years for the project, though the entire initiative is expected to cost about $1.6 billion.

Plans call for the majority of costs to be covered through savings and efficiencies generated by the system and by shutting down old technology – a financing plan the province’s auditor general questioned in a recent report.

Yiu said the request for proposals (RFP) process for Connect Care lasted about a year and involved a rigorous process of evaluation. Epic was chosen from a short list of three bidders.

She said the health authority learned lessons from a controversial and problematic bidding process in 2015 for a lab services provider in Edmonton. Health Minister Sarah Hoffman eventually cancelled that initiative.

A major difference with the latest RFP is that AHS had a world-leading “fairness monitor” guiding the process, Yiu said.

The initial plan was to roll out the system in the Edmonton zone first, but Yiu said the plan now calls for a more concurrent implementation around the province. The project is expected to take about five years, but at least some of the system could be in place in Edmonton facilities in two years.

Written by Editor

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