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Setting the Stage for a Nimble Response to COVID-19

With a strong IT foundation already in place, Guthrie had a head start in adapting operations during the pandemic

When COVID-19 required hospitals and clinics to make rapid changes, Guthrie had a few key IT strategies in place that helped them rapidly adapt, including a strong training program, an up-to-date EHR, and an emphasis on telehealth.

A focus on clinicians’ happiness and efficiency in the EHR meant they were prepared for change.

As soon as the pandemic began, clinicians needed to be ready to adapt to a new way of working: treating a new virus and treating more patients remotely as people sheltered in place. 

Guthrie clinicians were ready for this pivot because of Guthrie’s focus on building strong relationships between clinicians and IT and providing ongoing at-the-elbow EHR training. Trainers visit clinics regularly, and before each check-in, they tailor tips and tricks to the clinicians at that location based on data from Epic. After the pandemic began, trainers offered an online class and posted the recording online to reach more providers. Guthrie’s provider satisfaction scores are at 99%, and clinicians consistently rate the IT team’s clinic visits highly.

“Providers know they have a buddy from IT who will be coming around to hear their feedback, so they feel like they have a voice in how the system works,” said Terri Couts, RN, Guthrie’s VP of clinical systems. “Having these relationships in place has helped us make decisions more quickly, which was especially important during the pandemic, because clinicians feel like they are a part of the evolution.”

An up-to-date EHR provided a foundation for quickly turning on new COVID-19 features.

Guthrie has been using Epic for more than a decade, so over the last few years, they refreshed their system to match the most up-to-date recommendations using Epic’s Gold Stars and Refuel programs, which help organizations stay current with best practices and the latest features. Being able to quickly get new EHR updates from Epic was a necessity when COVID-19 began. 

For example, Guthrie’s travel screening questions were updated automatically by a centralized team of infectious disease experts organized by Epic as the virus spread to new countries and the CDC’s recommendations evolved.

“We put a process in place to regularly update our system and bundle updates together so they’d be intuitive for providers to learn to use,” Terri said. “When COVID-19 hit, we already had a process in place for rapidly distributing and training new features.”

In August, Guthrie achieved level 10 in the Gold Stars program, which recognizes high levels of EHR adoption. Only 1% of organizations using Epic achieve Level 10, the highest recognition available.

Existing telehealth programs in specialty areas paved the way for others to make the transition.

Guthrie serves a large rural population, so they already used telehealth to provide more convenient specialty care for patients who live far away. When COVID-19 guidelines meant fewer patients were coming into the office for appointments, Guthrie was able to expand their existing telehealth program in just weeks because they already had the framework in place.

Epic community members can learn more about strategies for training users on new workflows during COVID-19 and fostering clinician wellness and efficiency on the UserWeb.