Small Hospitals Work Together On EMR Install, Save $600K

Posted on September 8, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Installing an EMR can be a lonely job for a small, independent hospital. After all, when you’re about to make a make-or-break IT investment decision, it’s particularly tough to do without the financial backing of a powerful health system or corporate office.

But what if such hospitals were to work together on their EMR projects? Would it help them over installation hurdles and improve efficiency? Would sharing data help justify the costs of their efforts? It looks like two Pennsylvania hospitals are about to find out.

McConnellsburg, PA-based Fulton County Medical Center, an 88-bed not-for-profit, is working with 90-bed Jersey Shore (PA) Hospital to install a Meditech EMR.

The two are connecting their EMR installs via a fiberoptic network laid in by the Pennsylvania Mountains Healthcare Alliance, a local trade group which counts 20 area hospitals as members. But the install, which will also include financial and human resource applications, is being paid for and managed solely by the two small hospitals.

While the installation would usually cost $2.3 million per hospital, the two expect to save about $300,000 each by sharing training, installation and hardware costs, according to Carey Plummer, CEO of Jersey Shore Hospital.

The two critical-access hospitals will also have an easier time meeting Meaningful Use goals by 2013, Plummer told the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

Unfortunately, I doubt this otherwise smart initiative can be duplicated across the hospital industry. In my opinion, few larger hospitals could create a rollout plan both could live with, much less share a network and common hardware.  (I’m no security expert, but the idea of sharing that much mission-critical data gives even me the hives.)

Not only that, most hospitals that would benefit from EMR sharing in a given metro are likely to see each other as competitors. They’re not likely to partner on valet parking, much less a joint IT project.

Still, it’s encouraging to see small hospitals find a way to make their EMR rollout a success. I applaud Jersey Shore and Fulton County for putting together such a sensible and cost-effective effort.