A Community Connect program is a strategic decision by a health system to extend its Epic electronic health record (EHR) software to community physicians and/or hospitals. This “marriage” of organizations is intended to provide continuity of care for patients through shared technology. Properly executed, a Community Connect program enables patients and providers to communicate, collaborate, and work toward overall better health and success outcomes.
As with any relationship, good communication is key to success in a Community Connect arrangement. Communication starts by clearly defining roles and responsibilities early on to avoid confusion and set realistic expectations of one another. Good communication helps to establish essential trust, although a certain degree of trust must exist between the host and the potential recipient partner to even begin these conversations. During the “dating phase,” host and partner should focus on ensuring alignment of goals, expected outcomes, and commitment levels.
“Almost all Connect site and host separations are due to the lack of a lasting shared vision or mission statement.”– Epic Community Connect Program Development Strategy Handbook
Once mutual interest has been established, deeper conversations can take place to gauge interest in moving the relationship to the next level. Each organization should perform some due diligence and come prepared – and an impartial and experienced “marriage counselor” (connect advisor) can help ensure all important elements are discussed.
What should the Community Connect host bring to the conversation?
- A business model outlining what the program will offer, host and partner responsibilities, minimum partner requirements, and the expected associated cost.
- A plan for implementation, going live and providing ongoing support.
- Program management and workflow guidance for the partner.
- Defined assurances that host will provide quality support (i.e., service level agreement, or SLA).
What should the Community Connect partner bring to the conversation?
- A thorough evaluation of the Community Connect offering to ensure the software and technology meet the needs of the practice or hospital.
- A team dedicated to working with the host through the discovery phase.
- Willingness and ability to upgrade hardware and infrastructure to meet minimum host requirements.
- An understanding of service level agreements (i.e., what is reasonable to expect).
- An understanding of what will be given up (i.e., what the host will now control and what the partner will no longer control).
What should a Community Connect advisor (counselors) bring to the conversation?
- Business and cost-modeling expertise, knowledge of vendor solutions, and EHR planning and implementation experience.
- Lessons learned and best practices for the host and partner.
- Support and service level agreement industry standards for Community Connect program success.
Assuming all goes well and the relationship proceeds to a formal (contractual) Community Connect partnership, the planning work can begin. This is when the two organizations create and execute a roadmap to implement the new EHR at the partner facilities. Once again, both organizations have vital roles and key responsibilities during each phase of the process.
What should the Community Connect host bring to planning and implementation?
- Discovery – A team of experts to evaluate current and future state
- Preparation – A timeline, deliverables and planning checklist
- Activation – A detailed implementation roadmap
- Go-Live – Go-live support
- Post-Go-Live – Ongoing support
What should the Community Connect partner bring to planning and implementation?
- Discovery – A team to gather and provide host-requested documents for evaluation of current and future state
- Preparation – A team to participate in planning checklist completion
- Activation – A commitment to follow the implementation roadmap
- Go-Live – A team of superusers to support the go-live
- Post-Go-Live – An understanding of and adherence to the defined process and SLA
What should a Community Connect advisor (counselors) bring to planning and implementation?
- Discovery – Subject matter expertise
- Preparation – Proven methodology and tools
- Activation – Lessons learned and best practices
- Go-Live – Knowledge of industry standards for classroom training and ratio of at-the-elbow trainers to end user support
- Post-Go-Live – Staffing recommendations
A marriage of healthcare partners through a Community Connect relationship can offer significant benefits to the host, the recipient partner practices and hospitals, and especially the patients they serve, but it requires good communication, planning, and commitment. Without these things, the relationship may ultimately end in separation, which is costly, time-consuming, and disheartening for all.