Ottawa Hospital creates ‘Epic-in-a-box’ for portability
September 2, 2020
OTTAWA – The Ottawa Hospital has launched Epic-in-a-box, a briefcase-like package that allows staff and professionals to visit patients in their homes or at long-term care centres and easily access the hospital’s electronic health record system through a secure cell-phone connection.
That’s giving mobile professionals access to huge resources – such as the patient’s digital records, including everything from COVID-19 tests to X-rays to brain scans. The regionalized system contains the records of hundreds of thousands of patients, as six other hospitals are part of the network.
“The theory behind Epic-in-a-box was to open the box, open a laptop, plug in a password and not have to depend on a wireless network, or any other infrastructure, but be able to use full Epic functionality,” said John Trickett, director at The Ottawa Hospital.
In other words, Epic-in-a-box is an innovation that makes the power of Epic portable – and that translates to even more benefits for patients.
One of the biggest benefits for patients is convenience. For example, Epic-in-a-box has been used in long-term care homes where residents and staff were being tested for COVID-19.
“It means that those residents don’t have to travel to the hospital or the COVID-19 Assessment Centre to get a test,” said Rosemary Bickerton, site lead for the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at the Brewer Arena. “We can do exactly the same thing out of that box as we could do for you at Brewer.”
Healthcare professionals who use Epic-in-a-box will be able to meet patients in their homes or other locations, register new patients in the Epic system, and be able to see their charts, order tests and use Epic as if they were at the hospital.
Since Epic-in-a-box is also fully integrated with MyChart, Epic’s patient portal, patients who have a MyChart account can receive their results securely on their laptop, tablet or smartphone as soon as they are available.
Unlike Epic in the hospital that requires a lot of infrastructure, Epic-in-a-box uses the same kind of technology as your cell phone, only much more secure.
“Cisco Meraki is a solution that allows us to make a network mobile,” said Jim Makris, manager of network services at The Ottawa Hospital. “It works off of the LTE network, so it works off a SIM just like a phone system. There’s no reliance on infrastructure required at any of the remote sites. All you need is power. You plug it in and it automatically makes a secure connection back to the hospital and provides connectivity for end devices.”
“It essentially creates a satellite unit outside the hospital with full hospital access,” said Stephen Roos, manager of Client Services. “As long as you have power, you can open the box and away you go.”
The system has numerous security and privacy measures built in. All users must input their Epic credentials to access the system. The Cisco Meraki device provides full 256-bit encryption to The Ottawa Hospital over a fully secure IP Sec tunnel.
Should the box be stolen or lost, the hospital can disable its connectivity. Moreover, no patient data is stored in the box itself; all patient data is securely stored in Epic, which contains its own robust security and privacy systems and protocols.
In the future, Epic-in-a-box could be used in many other environments, including remote communities in Nunavut, in a pop-up clinic, after a natural disaster or anywhere that does not have the full infrastructure of a hospital.