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UIHC officials confident in audit outcome

BY ARIANA WITT | FEBRUARY 04, 2011 7:10 AM

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University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics officials said they are confident in their abilities to correct the problems revealed by a November audit of the UIHC Ophthalmology Department’s medical program software.

UIHC officials requested the audit, said UIHC CEO Ken Kates.

“Our UI health-care information technology group is working on the recommendations that came out of the audit,” he said. “We believe we will have those completed with in the time line discussed with audit officials.”

The internal audit by regent officials found inconsistent use of the EPIC software, an electronic records system, which may have led to billing errors and affected health-care officials’ abilities to maintain locally supported information systems in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s security rule.

While Kates said he doesn’t expect the audit — which must be completed by July — to find any missing money, officials considered the audit of “the highest importance” among the seven ongoing audits at the UI and said it could seriously affect several areas within the university.

This isn’t the first time the UIHC’s EPIC program has faced an audit.

In April 2010, an internal audit found $11 million in UIHC patient charges missing, which officials attributed to human error and a lack of an electronic interface between the EPIC and billing systems.

The audit was the first following implementation of the EPIC program.

“We corrected that and recovered that money, so that’s a perfect example of how the audit is supposed to work,” said UI spokesman Tom Moore.

But officials don’t expect the current audit to reveal similar issues.

“It’s not trouble, it’s new,” Kates said. “The issues you see come up you would see with implementing any large system implementing thousands and thousands of users.”

EPIC is a privately owned company based in Wisconsin that produces software for medical groups for clinical, access, and revenue functions.

Mark Olsen, a family practitioner who has served as a physician champion for the implementation of the EPIC product at advanced health care in Milwaukee, said people often have trouble using the software and the company itself conducts regular audits of the program.

“It’s a constant struggle; there are people who just don’t use the program properly because they don’t like to use it,” he said.

Most people don’t like to use the electronic software to enter patient charts, Olsen said. But he said the program can be very effective if used right.

“I haven’t dictated a note for 10 years,” Olsen said.

All UIHC departments use the software, Kates said, and officials have yet to see problems with the EPIC software in other departments.

Regent Robert Downer said he thinks the problems in the Ophthalmology Department represent a natural glitch and said he is confident whatever problems are within the department will be resolved.


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