Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in Grand Rapids, Michigan, went live with its Epic electronic health record system this past week.

Pine Rest, one of the largest behavioral healthcare providers in the country, is the first free-standing behavioral health system worldwide to implement the Epic EHR, officials said

"Behavioral health is an essential component of any integrated and collaborative community of care," said Pine Rest president and CEO Mark Eastburg said in a statement, noting that the health system "aims to partner with local and national healthcare systems to provide a network of support and care coordination that "exceeds anything previously experienced."

As Pine Rest officials put it, now that Epic is in place, the organization has begun to set a new standard for patient care in a behavioral health setting. Features of the new platform allow the provider easier coordination of care, both within its continuum of services as well as in partnership with other healthcare providers in the area, officials say.

For instance, with Epic Care Everywhere, Pine Rest can receive critical health information from other healthcare systems in real-time during an admission, screening or visit.

Pine Rest has nearly 50,000 patients. Its executive leaders anticipate a return on their $18 million EHR investment but did not disclose how much.

"The community's health and well-being improves when providers can easily communicate and coordinate care," said Eastburg. "Because other major healthcare systems in West Michigan are either on or moving toward Epic as their 'common language,' I'm convinced that our entire community will benefit."

He added that a key consideration when planning the Epic go-live was "remaining accessible to those in need of care. Many come to us in a time of crisis, and we are extremely pleased to have successfully achieved the goal of meeting those needs with open doors."

Provider efficiency has already been improved by the transition to the new EHR, Eastburg explained. Tools such as Epic's Smart Templates and NoteWriter functionality makes it possible for providers to document care as it occurs, which makes it easier to manage their workflow more effectively.

Louis Nykamp, MD, Pine Rest's chief medical information officer, noted that Pine Rest physicians and clinicians are in full support of the change to Epic.

Pine Rest shares patients with many of the regional hospitals that currently use Epic. They include Metro Health – University of Michigan Health, Spectrum Health, Bronson, Sparrow Health and Lakeland Health.

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