WVU’s $90 million Merlin electronic medical records project rolls out

New system will benefit patients and providers

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Thick paper-filled medical charts are soon to be a thing of the past at West Virginia University Hospitals and University Health Associates clinics. The go-live date for Wave 2 of the massive electronic medical records project, nicknamed Merlin, is Friday at midnight.

The change, which has been almost three years in the making – at a cost of $90 million for custom Epic Systems medical software, training and implementation – applies to all WVU Healthcare sites. 

The new Merlin electronic health record will save patients and healthcare providers time and money and will increase patient safety and convenience.

All healthcare provider orders and patient information will be automated in an online system that will be accessed by about 5,000 licensed users including approximately 500 doctors. The system contains built-in privacy guarantees, with only individuals involved in the patient’s treatment allowed to access the electronic record.

Some benefits of the WVU electronic health record are that it:

  • allows medical professionals to better manage and track a patient’s healthcare delivery
  • ensures that everyone involved in providing patient care can view or access the same information at the same time, including immediate updates
  • allows pharmacists to better manage and prioritize as they fill prescriptions and advise patients on possible drug interactions
  • reduces confusing and repetitive information entry
  • eliminates delays caused by missing or incomplete records
  • enables medical teams to easily reach out to patients when records show they are in need of follow-up care or annual testing

“We are proud of the hard work our employees have done to create this significant, positive change for our patients,” said Ann Chinnis, M.D., executive director of the Epic project. “As everyone from President-elect Obama down has observed, electronic records don’t just save money, but they also make healthcare safer.”

“The system will be ‘paper light’ in many areas and paperless in others, such as lab test results,” explained Claudia Wilhelm, R.N., director of clinical operations for the Epic project.  “Today the doctor and other healthcare providers get lab test results on a piece of paper. On Jan. 17 providers will get test results in their Merlin InBaskets.”

Cities and towns where hardware and software to support Merlin have been installed include Buckhannon, Charles Town, Clarksburg, Gilbert, Harper’s Ferry, Kingwood, Martinsburg, Moorefield, Morgantown, Reedsville and Wheeling.

The Wave 2 Merlin rollout comes less than a year after Wave 1. Merlin Wave 1 implementation focused on the use of Merlin for most of the business operations – registration and appointment scheduling, for example. Merlin Wave 2 focuses on clinical care.

Implementation of additional Merlin features continues in 2009. For example, patients soon will be able to access their records electronically via WVUMyChart, which will be unveiled later this year.

Electronic health records have been a priority of the Bush administration and the incoming Obama administration because they lower health costs and improve health outcomes – including the important goal of improving patient safety by reducing medical errors.

President-elect Barack Obama said in a speech last week that the government will set a five- year deadline to achieve electronic health records for all Americans to save both dollars and lives.

In West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin has spearheaded conversion to a statewide electronic medical records system, envisioning an electronic network for healthcare information encompassing all public and private healthcare providers in the state.


For more information:
Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
ab: 1-8-09

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