Based in Wilmington, North Carolina, Liberty HomeCare & Hospice Services is one of the region’s largest post-acute providers, offering a full range of home care and hospice services across a broad section of central and coastal North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
With 30 offices serving approximately 16,000 unduplicated patients annually, Liberty needed to identify an electronic medical records partner that could deliver user-friendly, reliable software. They also wanted to ensure that this partner would be committed to effective communication with stakeholders across the organization.
LEAVING THE CHAOS BEHIND: WHY A NEW EMR WAS NECESSARY
“In retrospect, it was a big red flag,” said President and Executive Director Anthony J. Zizzamia, Jr., M.P.H., RN. “There were so many problems after the first month of implementation that we stopped further rollouts and two months later initiated a slowed down rollout schedule.”
The struggle with their legacy system for more than two years: functionality promised during the sales cycle still hadn’t materialized, implementation had been painful and product upgrades were “chaotic”.
Even when Liberty’s legacy EMR vendor allocated two full-time, on-site resources two weeks prior to a major upgrade, the system crashed and the upgrade process brought the billing department to a halt.
Zizzamia said that things reached a critical point: “We couldn’t bill for two weeks—and we normally bill daily.”
His team felt great frustration: it took days to rectify issues with even small upgrades, and it seemed that the Liberty team was actually identifying the source of issues, rather than the vendor.
While Liberty had invested time and money in the implementation with their vendor, Zizzamia realized that he could not go forward with an unstable, poorly functioning system.
He and his team opted to begin a search for a new vendor with a very clear set of goals.
Early in the process the Liberty team determined that they were looking for an “aggressive, capable vendor that would anticipate regulatory change.” With the help of an experienced healthcare consultant, they identified a handful of vendors that might meet their needs and honed their requirements: being careful to ask appropriate questions and be diligent about follow-up until they felt confident that concerns were addressed.
On seeing the HealthWyse system demonstrated, Zizzamia saw what he thought was a good product, but he wanted to “beat it up” to validate comfort levels across the organization. HealthWyse staff arranged access to a test environment so that executives, clinicians and office staff could work, hands-on, to understand workflows and capabilities.
In the end, he noted that the clinicians liked HealthWyse because they felt it was well organized and took fewer keystrokes to accomplish core tasks. Office and billing staff felt that it was much more user-friendly than the legacy system.
FIRST STEPS TO SUCCESS…
Initially, Liberty opted to undertake a pilot with HealthWyse. Given their disruptive and disappointing experience with their legacy vendor they wanted to proceed cautiously. HealthWyse was rolled out at two sites, inclusive of home health and hospice, and worked closely with the Liberty team to ensure a smooth transition and establish good lines of communication. After a three month trial run, management felt confident in moving forward with a plan to roll out HealthWyse across their entire home health and hospice business.
Beyond the product itself, Liberty executives value the nature of their partnership with HealthWyse. “Communication is key,” said Zizzamia. Executive and clinical teams have bi-weekly and weekly calls, respectively, and this has ensured that project implementation has stayed on track.
HealthWyse has also offered strategic recommendations that have worked out well. For example, HealthWyse recommended that Liberty front-load patients instead of forcing clinicians through an awkward transition process where they must document in two systems. And, while the clinician education process is a little different from what they experienced with their last vendor, “it’s worked out better” according to Zizzamia.