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Merge Healthcare Helps HealthPartners Integrate Medical Imaging and Electronic Health Record (EHR) Solutions

Merge Healthcare Helps HealthPartners Integrate Medical Imaging and Electronic Health Record (EHR) Solutions

Interoperability of Merge Fusion PACS™ and Epic™ EHR extends health system’s meaningful use environment to improve care and reduce costs

MILWAUKEE & MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Merge Healthcare (Nasdaq: MRGE), a leading health IT solutions provider, and HealthPartners, the largest consumer-governed, non-profit health organization in the nation, announced the completion of a project to integrate a radiology picture archiving and communications system (PACS) from Merge with an electronic health record (EHR) solution from Epic. The new platform is now used at St. Paul-based Regions Hospital and across 18 HealthPartners outpatient clinics and medical offices.

“Since going filmless with hospital imaging in 2003 and launching our EHR in 2005, we identified an opportunity to enhance workflow by bringing Merge and Epic together,” explains Carrie Boren, director of enterprise radiology services for HealthPartners and Regions Hospital. “The separate applications did not provide a robust environment to optimize radiology workflow. Our radiologists were excited about the Epic/Merge integration because they knew it would bring new efficiencies.”

“They were right,” Boren continues. “This integration is already showing its value in improving operational efficiencies, enhancing patient care, and increasing satisfaction among patients and clinicians. Radiologists no longer wait for manual delivery of information from some departments or use extra keystrokes to toggle between two systems, and we’ve significantly reduced report turnaround time to referring doctors. In most cases, a final report is in the EHR within two hours of the imaging exam being performed.”

“Clinical efficiency is a dominant theme in the delivery of healthcare today, as evidenced in the recent legislation and ongoing policy discussions,” said Merge Fusion President Nancy Koenig. “Efficiency can only be increased when the medical record contains all of the information needed to make effective decisions. Radiology is a critical component of the patient’s medical history that should not be overlooked when deploying a meaningful EHR solution.”

Boren said that while most major system integrations come with challenges, this project went well overall. “Professionals from Epic and Merge were very supportive in helping us transition from an environment using both paper and automation to a fully paperless workflow. Merge is known for creating interoperable solutions. Their use of non-proprietary, DICOM-based standards helped us from schedule and budget perspectives.”

In conjunction with integrating the PACS and EHR, HealthPartners also managed a “big bang” transition from film to filmless in 18 outpatient settings. As a next step in the continued integration of the systems throughout the organization, Boren said HealthPartners will soon begin analysis of bringing the integrated EHR and PACS into their critical access hospitals in smaller cities in Western Wisconsin. She added, “The project is well-aligned with HealthPartner’s vision to transform healthcare, and our mission to improve the health of our members, patients and community.”

“We are incredibly impressed by the innovative capabilities and visionary thinking of HealthPartners,” said Koenig. “This project did not focus on middleware, interfacing or temporary bridging. It is a true integration of a PACS and an EMR, something accomplished thus far by only a few hospital systems in the US.”

Merge Healthcare develops solutions that automate healthcare data and diagnostic workflow to enable a better electronic record of the patient experience, and to enhance product development for health IT, device and pharmaceutical companies. Merge products, ranging from standards-based development toolkits to sophisticated clinical applications, have been used by healthcare providers, vendors and researchers worldwide for over 20 years. Additional information can be found at www.merge.com.

About HealthPartners

Founded in 1957, the HealthPartners (www.healthpartners.com) family of healthcare companies serves 1.25 million medical and dental health plan members nationwide. For the fourth year in a row, HealthPartners is rated one of the best commercial health plans in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, NCQA's "America's Best Health Plans 2008."

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