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Evaluating and Addressing the Need for an Effective EMPI

Lots Pook and Barbara Manor, for HealthLeaders Media, December 15, 2009

This led to the development of more than 250 functional requirements for prospective EMPI solutions. Among these were the ability to search on multiple data elements, identify individual records despite multiple data discrepancies, extensibility for future enhancements (including open source capability of the source code), and ease with which data could be extracted from the database for reporting. System requirements were also identified, including interoperability with the existing interface engine operating system and database platform, system scalability, response time metrics, etc.

Other specific requirements for the prospective EMPI solutions included:

  • Ability to support patient conversion from legacy systems into a single Epic system
  • The ability for Exempla to manage content across multiple data sources
  • Be able to integrate with Exempla's ambulatory EMR strategy
  • Open architecture system for extension needs
  • Ability to integrate bi-directional feeds with other ambulatory EMRs
  • Ability to easily integrate with Exempla's integration engine

Justifying Costs, Establishing ROI
These requirements ultimately drove vendor selection. However, to validate that selection and to secure approval and funding to move forward with implementation, a total-cost-of-ownership and ROI analysis was conducted.

The goal was to provide not only the cost justification, but also an explanation of goals and the consulting hours needed for EMPI implementation. It also served to identify general interoperability with and without EMPI implementation, and duplicate vulnerability for downstream systems in the absence of an EMPI.

The analysis was highly detailed and included:

  • Ability to support patient conversion from legacy systems into a single Epic system
  • The ability for Exempla to manage content across multiple data sources
  • Be able to integrate with Exempla's ambulatory EMR strategy
  • Open architecture system for extension needs
  • Ability to integrate bi-directional feeds with other ambulatory EMRs
  • Ability to easily integrate with Exempla's integration engine

An educational component was also developed to help the capital approval committee understand that EMPI is more than just a filter to identify duplicate records; it is a complete data management tool designed to improve patient safety through delivery of accurate information.

A Blueprint for Long-Term Success
Exempla's EMPI project is currently in the implementation phase, but the organization is already realizing the benefits of conducting the comprehensive assessments, evaluations, and justifications that led to the decision to move forward.

That is because the thorough analyses did more than validate Exempla's need for an EMPI. By identifying the weaknesses in the existing collection and maintenance of patient data, Exempla was able to take corrective action even before implementation is complete. This will ensure that the organization realizes immediate benefits from the elimination of duplicates within the system.

More importantly, this approach ensures that the organization–and its patients–will realize the long-term benefits that come from the permanent resolution of those data integrity issues that would otherwise continue to plague the system and limit the effectiveness of EMPI.


Barbara Manor is the senior system director of health information management for Exempla Healthcare. She can be reached at ManorB@exempla.org. Laszlo “Lots” Pook is the chief information officer for National Jewish Health and the former chief technology officer for Exempla Healthcare. He can be reached at PookL@NJHealth.org.
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