Patients of Good Shepherd Health Care System will have easier access to their health care information as the hospital and its clinics switch to a new medical records system.

The new system, known as Epic, goes live on Nov. 3. While it represents a massive change for employees who are currently training for the switch, it will also represent new tools for patients.

Jim Schlenker, chief operating officer of Good Shepherd, said the new system comes with a “My Health” patient portal that can be accessed online 24 hours a day. Through that portal, patients will be able to see open time slots for their doctor and schedule their own appointments. They will also be able to access test results and billing information, request prescription refills and message their provider follow-up questions about their visits.

“The portal will definitely add some tools that more and more people are coming to expect,” Schlenker said.

The main advantage of Epic, however, has to do with seamless transfer of records between medical facilities, both within the Good Shepherd family and with other hospitals. CEO Dennis Burke said that most of the hospitals in the Pacific Northwest, including Kadlec Regional Medical Center in the Tri-Cities, are on the Epic system.

That means if a Hermiston resident gets referred to a specialist in Portland, or has a medical emergency while vacationing on the coast, the provider they are seeing will be able to have full access to their health records.

“It’s a huge deal to be able to see the big picture and not have to rely on, ‘Can you fax this to me?’ and maybe you’ll get it in an hour,” Schlenker said.

He said privacy laws will still apply — someone would have to be a patient at one of those other clinics or hospitals for a provider to look up their information.

Burke said Good Shepherd’s current medical records system has been a good hospital system but does not scale as well to clinics. A steering committee of physicians spent months researching different systems and favored Epic, but Good Shepherd was too small to join Epic on its own. In the end, the hospital was able to transition to Epic because Legacy Health, which owns Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland and several other hospitals around the state, agreed to let Good Shepherd join its “instance” of Epic.

“We’re deeply appreciate of Legacy for allowing us to partner with them,” Burke said.

He said people have been approaching him saying they heard a rumor that Legacy was acquiring Good Shepherd, but that is not the case. The hospital is merely contracting with Legacy on medical records and will remain independently owned and operated.

Schlenker said the hospital has invested more than $3.2 million into Epic, but it is expected to be a significant benefit to the hospital and patients. He asked that people be patient with any hiccups that happen as the system goes online.

On Oct. 24 from 5-8 p.m. at the Hermiston Community Center, Good Shepherd is holding what it hopes is its first annual community meeting, where members of the public are invited to get updates and ask questions.

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