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Erlanger chief technology officer Tish Ingalls presents the $91 million IT overhaul to the Erlanger board and executives at Thursday's board meeting.

Erlanger Health System board members unanimously approved what hospital CEO Kevin Spiegel is calling "the most important investment we will make over the next 10 years" on Thursday: a contract for a $91 million electronic records system.

The contract, with the tech company Epic Systems, will overhaul Erlanger's IT system to put all hospital units and practices on the same page when it comes to patient care.

Now, the hospital relies on a collection of fragmented systems -- more than 200 interfaces -- that don't communicate with each other, leading to redundancy and physician frustration, said chief technology officer Tish Ingalls.

Erlanger gastroenterologist Louis Lambiase called the new technology "breathtaking" compared to what doctors now use.

"I think getting good data, being able to act on that data and to coordinate across the health system ... sets us up to achieve more of our potential," Lambiase told the board's budget and finance committee Tuesday.

The new system will be one of the hospital's most significant capital expenses in recent years and will be paid for over the coming decade, with the major payments taking place over the next three years. The hospital has budgeted $13 million toward IT in 2016.

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On top of the $91 million capital expense, the Epic system will cost $97 million to operate over the next 10 years. Erlanger chief financial officer Britt Tabor said that is less than the cost of maintaining the system the hospital now has.

The Epic installation will bring about 100 new jobs to Erlanger, while another 100 Epic employees will come onsite to implement the program.

In the hospital's bid for an IT vendor, Epic faced off against tech company Cerner Corp. Epic's bid was less expensive, Tabor said, and the hospital's selection committee -- made up of clinical and operational leaders -- vote favored Epic 28 to 2.

Hospitals and doctors across the U.S. now are undergoing massive IT upheaval as the federal government pushes health organizations to adopt electronic record-keeping standards.

"We're laying the foundation for our future," Spiegel said. "And we really can't take this hospital's enhanced quality, patient safety and patient care to the next level without significantly investing in IT infrastructure."

Contact staff writer Kate Belz at kbelz@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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