In 2015, Nordic partnered with Bellin Health and N.E.W. Community Clinic on an important project: extending the health system's instance of Epic to several clinics that serve the homeless and underprivileged communities in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The clinics struggled with problems unique to their patient population, including attaining accurate names, birth dates, and social security numbers and keeping track of patients across multiple encounters.
By helping to extend Epic to the clinics, Nordic was able to help the providers deliver much-needed care to vulnerable patients, track their progress through the system, and make sure they received the same standard of treatment as any other patient in the city. We sat down with leadership, providers, and analysts from Green Bay's Bellin Health, N.E.W. Community Clinic, and Healthcare for the Homeless to tell this moving story.
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Ike Glinsmann: Bellin came to Nordic with a long history of working with Nordic to implement projects with them, and they came to Nordic with a really special project. The Green Bay area has a couple of clinics that serve the homeless and working poor in the community, and Bellin, in conjunction with some other hospitals in Green Bay, had been providing care and support to patients coming in and out of the clinics themselves.
Bellin wanted to really step up its game in terms of helping the community and came to Nordic saying, we want to bring the clinics up on our version of Epic for a few different reasons.
Bonnie Kuhr, CEO, N.E.W. Community Clinic: We had three different clinics we were going to bring up simultaneously. Each one was very different. One was a clinic for the homeless, and so we went to different homeless shelters. We had to be able to set up in gyms and needed our equipment to do all that. One clinic had a lot of walk-ins, so we had 25 to 30 volunteer doctors at any given time coming into that clinic, many of them retired with limited computer skills. And then we had a clinic at a technical college and had to integrate with their web-based systems as well.
Seth Moore, Program Coordinator, Outreach Healthcare: Patient safety and continuity of care are top priorities in the Outreach Healthcare Program. We see patients that see other providers in Green Bay and are frequently seen in the emergency department. One of the limitations of a paper charting system is that we don’t always get the records in a timely fashion, and that can make it more difficult for us to continue treatment and get patients the medications they need.
Jeanne Xiong, Medical Assistant, Outreach Healthcare: Sometimes with our homeless, it’s difficult because they don’t have a primary care doctor, so going to the emergency is the only way to get access to healthcare. If we know they’ve been to the emergencies, it gives us a better view that we’ve done this and we can pick it up and help them to the next point.
Seth: During the implementation of our electronic medical record system, the Nordic team was very involved with us and meeting our program’s needs. They helped us customize the EMR to be serviceable at all our clinical sites. We track a significant amount of clinical data that we’re required to report to the federal government and other program funders, so they helped us to customize queries and fields so that we’re providing excellent clinical care but also so that the records across multiple sites were coordinated.
Bonnie: They never looked at a challenge as a negative. They looked at challenges as a positive and a way to make our clinic a better place for our clients.
Seth: Since we have implemented Epic with the help of Nordic, it has been a tremendous benefit to our clinical operations and patient care. We’ve improved our access to records from other providers, emergency departments, other clinics. We’re able to communicate with them, get timely medication updates, medical records. It’s also made our logistics much easier. We can take computers to multiple sites and provide care at homeless shelters and drop-in centers, all of which were challenging prior to implementation.
Bonnie: It makes us look credible. Because we are the same as any other clinic. When people come on in, they know the care is the same that it would be anywhere else.
Teri Krier, EpicCare Analyst, Bellin Health: I think the thing I feel the most proud of with the N.E.W. Community project is really feeling Bellin’s role in the community. I grew up in that neighborhood, and I find myself sitting behind a computer. It was cool and rewarding to be there in the community and seeing what we had to offer.
Ike: This was really the most meaningful experience I’d ever had on a project. And from the perspective of someone who’s consulting, that is something I’m never going to forget.
Bonnie: We felt like we got the best. [Nordic] treated us very nicely, they treated us as if we were the best project in the world. They even fed us at times. Nobody ever feeds you as a non-profit becasue people don’t always feel that you're that important. They made us feel like we were the most important project in the world.