The future arrived at VMC just after dawn on Saturday morning. In an instant, massive change had come to the largest and busiest health system in the Valley.
HealthLink, the new electronic health record and core information technology system for the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System was officially launched, culminating an unprecedented two-year effort to move VMC into the forefront of healthcare IT. It took a cast of hundreds from every division, department and unit of the hospital to make HealthLink a reality.
It is hard to overstate how significant of an impact this change will have on the organization.
As longtime VMC Rheumatologist (and member of the VMC Foundation Board of Directors) Dr. Tom Bush says, “HealthLink is going be the biggest change that happens at Valley Medical Cener in the last 30 to 40 years, and it’s going to change our lives and workplace dramatically.”
Kaiser members will be familiar with many of the features of HealthLink. The Oakland-based health giant spent billions to launch their core IT system, KP Health Connect nearly a decade ago. Now, like virtually all other major health systems in the Bay Area, VMC is following suit.
HealthLink will soon allow patients to communicate with their doctor electronically, while viewing lab results, scheduling appointments and refilling prescriptions online. Patient health information is securely stored and shared electronically, allowing specialty and primary care departments to communicate more easily and efficiently.
It will also prove to be an enormous time and cost saver, as doctors, nurses and clerical workers will avoid many of the difficulties experienced tracking down patient information using old-fashioned paper charts. Other systems that have implemented this technology found that patients enjoyed reduced wait times at pharmacies, labs and call centers, as more people were able to conduct their business online.
It goes without saying that HealthLink was a massive undertaking. Indeed, it represents the most significant investment that the County has made in something that’s not a building. Huge credit is due to the currently leadership of the Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System, including Director Rene Santiago, who championed this effort from his first day on the job over a year ago, and Paul Lorenz, VMC CEO. Lee Hermann, Chief Healthcare Technology Information Officer for the Health & Hospital System, oversaw most aspects of implementation. County Executive Jeff Smith had the vision to seek this solution knowing how antiquated VMCs IT infrastructure had become, and the Board of Supervisors, who provided the resources to make HealthLink possible.
And of course, the Health Link Champions, the Build-Teams, the Trainers, Subject Matter Experts, and hundreds of other VMC staff who worked for two years and redesigned every aspect of their daily workflow to prepare for the HealthLink go-live.
Work is far from done, as thousands of VMC staff will now use HealthLink in a clinical setting for the first time. A whole smorgasbord of challenges must be identified and bested. Indeed, as of this writing, a staff of hundreds are pulling 12-hour shifts in a round-the-clock command center that will stay in place for at least the next 10 days.
But the hard part is (hopefully) behind us. Bravo.