By Arthur G. Root. The current COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized just how important it is to have access to patient information across the continuum of care – from lab and imaging results to physician notes across multiple locations and in multiple systems.
In August 2019, UC San Diego’s Student Health Services (SHS) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) made history by becoming the first student health service in the University of California system to share the integrated and interoperable Epic electronic health record (EHR) with the affiliated health system, UC San Diego Health. The decision to transition Student Health Services to Epic was made to give students better access to the resources of the academic medical center right on their own campus, and to make clinical information for these students available to everyone helping to manage their care.
The Epic EHR has allowed SHS to streamline test ordering, result notification, and other aspects of patient care for students, improving healthcare efficiency for this population. Imaging studies on student patients read by radiologists in the health system now have a much faster turnaround time. Students referred for specialty care at UC San Diego Health by SHS have all of their information available to the specialist, and recommendations can quickly get back to the student’s SHS provider for next steps.
Epic EHR System: A Key Component of “Return to Learn”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, UC San Diego students remaining on campus have appropriately been sheltering in place and practicing physical distancing for almost two months, which has changed the campus experience in ways previously unimaginable. At Student Health Services, fewer in-person clinical visits are being conducted, and CAPS providers are taking advantage of Epic’s integrated video visit capability to seamlessly care for their patients with telehealth during this time.
To be in the best position to potentially increase the safety of the campus environment, UC San Diego needed processes for coronavirus testing, contact tracing, and appropriate medical follow up for those tested. With SHS integrated in the health system EHR, the campus was well positioned to launch the Return to Learn Program, a testing and tracing initiative intended to better position the campus to resume in-person activities in the fall.
Through the initial phase of Return to Learn, approximately 5,000 students currently living in campus housing are eligible for voluntary testing beginning May 11. Testing of UC San Diego students is facilitated by SHS and UC San Diego Health, with coronavirus (Sars-CoV-2) test orders placed and results posted in the Epic EHR. Students receive their test results directly in the MyStudentChart patient care portal linked to Epic. All of the more than 40,000 UC San Diego students have health records in the Epic EHR, and the MyStudentChart portal already has thousands of students using it today.
Structured data available in the Epic EHR as a result of this testing process are being used to facilitate large-scale analyses of the results. Of course, there are also other IT solutions supporting this program including a bespoke barcode scanner built into the student app by UC San Diego campus ITS. Lessons learned will be used to expand the testing and contact tracing program within the UCSD campus community, with a goal to test roughly 65,000 students, faculty, and staff on a monthly basis starting in the fall.
Students, faculty, staff, and the larger academic community will be watching as UC San Diego launches this effort to return students to a safe campus environment. Hopes are high that Return to Learn will succeed in restoring the in-person college campus experience for our learners.
Arthur Root is administrative officer, Information Services, UC San Diego Health.
Photo: The UC San Diego Health Information Services team was ready to assist staff at Student Health & Well-Being as it transitioned to the Epic EHR System.