Six Data Abstraction and Conversion Best Practices for New Epic System Go Live

The EHR market is set to grow to $39.7 billion by 2022. As patients and providers alike push for better access to data for informed care management and decision-making, healthcare organizations are making significant investments in their EHR systems for cohesive care coordination in the transition to value-based care.

If you are like many leading health IT professionals today, your organization has made a multi-million-dollar purchase of a new Epic EHR system. Now what? After months, and possibly years, of planning for your new Epic system, some of the biggest issues IT end users face are the first Epic ambulatory visits. Why? As with anything new, the system is a major change for your providers and staff. It will take time for them to learn the new system functionality and workflow while developing muscle memory to navigate through seamlessly.

How can you smooth the new system adoption process?

One of the most important things you can do to improve the go-live process is to make sure key patient data is entered prior to both the go live and the first patient visit. Minimum key data points on each patient should include schedule visits, allergies, active medications, active problem list, immunizations and preferred pharmacy. With data abstraction and conversion as the backbone to new system adoption, consider the following six best practices for your system transition:


  1. Legacy system data cleanup
    12 months before your Epic go live, begin cleaning up the key data in your legacy system. Why so early? Many patients only visit their doctors once a year. By beginning the cleanup processes one year prior, you will have plenty of time to make sure the most accurate information is transferred into your new system. This is especially pertinent for the problem lists and medications. Doing so greatly speeds up data load into the new system and ensures with each subsequent visit that providers are addressing the active patient problems. Keep in mind though that if you have data in your legacy system that is no longer valid, this is your opportunity to start fresh.

  2. New Epic system patient data entry
    How soon do I begin entering this data into Epic? The best practice is to pre-load your first 2-3 weeks of scheduled patients into Epic prior to go live. This allows your staff to have the patient data ready during the first few weeks of actual new system use. It also reduces stress on your staff, allowing them time to learn and adapt to the new system. Depending on the number of active patients and scheduled appointments, use the average of 5-10 minutes for time needed for data entry prior to the go-live date in proactive planning.

  3. Data pre-loading best practice
    How soon do I begin entering this data into Epic? The best practice is to pre-load your first 2-3 weeks of scheduled patients into Epic prior to go live. This allows your staff to have the patient data ready during the first few weeks of actual new system use. It also reduces stress on your staff, allowing them time to learn and adapt to the new system. Depending on the number of active patients and scheduled appointments, use the average of 5-10 minutes for time needed for data entry prior to the go-live date in proactive planning.

  4. Staffing aid
    The process of reviewing a patient in a legacy system and entering/reviewing their data in Epic is tedious work. Many organizations need to supplement staff to accommodate the number of scheduled patients for the first 2-3 weeks after go live. Some organizations utilize residents or retired staff for this work. Many others use HIT consulting firms to cost-effectively supplement the labor. If your organization uses a third-party firm, make sure their resources have direct experience with this critical assignment. Not only will the resources need to know Epic, but they will also need to know the legacy systems, depending on how many different source systems the patient data will be coming from.

  5. CCD load
    If possible, utilize a Continuity of Care Document (CCD) load from the legacy system. A CCD is an electronic document exchange standard for sharing patient summary information. This format of data can be extracted from the legacy system and loaded via HL7 into Epic once the demographic data is loaded into Epic for each patient. Users will see the data and have the chance to reconcile this data and add it to the Epic patient chart. This significantly reduces data entry time into Epic. Each scheduled patient will still need to be reviewed and verified against the legacy system for accuracy.

  6. Data audit
    With the patient data transition complete, it is critical to audit new data in the Epic system. A common best practice is to review 10% of a provider's patient files at random to ensure data completeness and accuracy. The data audit is a learning opportunity for clinical staff to learn the system prior to go live and that critical first patient visit.

With your Epic go live approaching, rest assured that scheduled patients visits have matching critical data ready for new system use. With these six best practices in place, end users will feel more comfortable and prepared for clinical care visits. Within a few weeks, as staff develop muscle memory of the new Epic system, they will reap the benefits of a unified IT landscape across the continuum of care.