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EMR Replacement Frenzy Has Major Downsides

Posted on May 16, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Now that they’ve gotten an EMR in shape to collect Meaningful Use payouts, hospitals are examining what those incentive bucks have gotten them. And apparently, many aren’t happy with what they see. In fact, it looks like a substantial number of hospitals are ripping and replacing existing EMRs with yet another massive system.

But if they thought that the latest forklift upgrade would be the charm, many were wrong. A new study by Black Book Research suggests that in the frenzy to replace their current EMR, many hospitals aren’t getting what they thought they were getting. In fact, things seem to be going horribly wrong.

Black Book recently surveyed 1,204 hospital executives and 2,133 user-level IT staffers that had been through at least one large EMR system switch to see if they were happy with the outcome. The results suggest that many of these system switches have been quite a disappointment.

According to researchers, hospitals doing new EMR implementations have encountered a host of troubles, including higher-than-expected costs, layoffs, declining inpatient revenues and frustrated clinicians. In fact, hospitals went in to these upgrades knowing that they would not be back to their pre-EMR implementation patient volumes for at least another five years, but in some cases it seems that they haven’t even been keeping up with that pace.

Fourteen percent of all hospitals that replaced their original EMR since 2011 were losing inpatient revenue at a pace that would not support the total cost of the replacement EMR, Black Book found. And 87% of financially threatened hospitals now regret the executive decision to change systems.

Some metrics differed significantly depending on whether the respondent was an executive or a staff member.

For example, 62% of non-managerial IT staffers reported that there was a significantly negative impact on healthcare delivery directly attributable to an EMR replacement initiative. And 90% of nurses said that the EMR process changes diminished their ability to deliver hands-on care at the same effectiveness level. In a striking contrast, only 5% of hospital leaders felt the impacted care negatively.

Other concerns resonated more with executives and staff-level respondents. Take job security. While 63% of executive-level respondents noted that they, or their peers, felt that their employment was in jeopardy to the EMR replacement process, only 19% of respondents said EMR switches resulted in intermittent or permanent staff layoffs.

Meanwhile, there seemed to be broad agreement regarding interoperability problems. Sixty-six percent of system users told Black Book that interoperability and patient data exchange functions got worse after EMR replacements.

What’s more, hospital leaders often haven’t succeeded in buying the loyalty of clinicians by going with a fashionable vendor. According to Black Book, 78% of nonphysician executives surveyed admitted that they were disappointed by the level of clinician buy-in after the replacement EMR was launched. In fact, 88% of hospitals with replacement EMRs weren’t aware of gaining any competitive advantage in attracting doctors with their new system.

Now, we all know that once a tactic such as EMR replacement reaches a tipping point, it gains momentum of its own. So even if they read this story, my guess is that hospital executives planning an EMR switch will assume their rollout will beat the odds. But if it doesn’t, they can’t say they weren’t warned!

From Epic Staffer To Epic Consultant

Posted on May 11, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Since many readers may have considered such a move, I was interested to read an interview with a woman who had transitioned from an Epic-based staff position at hospital to a consulting gig. Here are some of the steps she took, which offer food for thought for those who might want to follow in her footsteps.

Prior to going into Epic consulting, Pam (no last name given) had worked full time as a Clindoc/Stork analyst, specializing in Reporting Workbench and Radar dashboards. The hospital where she worked with deploying Epic for the first time as their EMR solution, a three-year project spanning 14 hospitals in her health system. Prior to that, Pam had worked in both IT and in the ICU as an RN.

Before she agreed to take the consulting position, which requires her to travel to the northeast once a week, Pam weighed the effect all the required travel would have on her spouse and family, as well as her elderly parents and in-laws.

She also bore her financial situation in mind. While she knew she could earn more as an Epic consultant than she could as a staff member, she also wouldn’t have access to company benefits such as retirement plans, health insurance, and paid sick days and vacation time. (Now that she’s consulting, Pam works with a financial analyst to create a personal retirement plan.)

To market herself as a consultant, Pam began by updating a resume to reflect the most current experience, including, obviously, her Epic experience. She researched Epic consulting firms in sent her resume to those that seemed appropriate. She also pulled together her personal and professional references, getting their permission to be contacted by firms interested in learning more about her. Then she worked with recruiters and consulting firms to capture her desired position.

One cautionary note from her story: Despite her experience level, as well as her having obtained in additional Epic proficiency and badge, she didn’t get a job immediately. In fact, it took her seven months to find an opportunity that fit her skills, a period she calls “long and difficult.” But she tells the interviewer that all the effort was worth it.

A few comments from the peanut gallery: While Pam has done well, the ending of the story — that she ended up waiting nearly a year to get her Epic job — came as a surprise to me. Yes, we are not in the absolute heyday of Epic consulting, as we were a few years ago, I would’ve assumed that an experienced professional with both clinical and IT background would’ve been snapped up much more quickly.

After all, while most hospitals may have made their big initial EMR outlay, maintaining those bad boys is an ongoing issue, and last I heard few have the resources to do so without outside help. Not only that, I doubt Epic has begun to hand out certifications like fortune cookies.

So why would there be a glut of Epic consultants, if there is in fact one? All I can think is that 1) the prevalence of Epic installations has led to more trained people being available, and 2) that hospitals have figured out how to maintain their Epic systems without as much outside help as they once had.

Either way, there may be a warning in this otherwise upbeat story. If you are thinking about hanging out your shingle as a Epic consultant, you may want to check out demand before you do. You may also want to spend some time searching through the Epic and other Healthcare IT jobs on Healthcare IT Central.

HCA Builds Capacity For Resilience Into EMR Rollout Training

Posted on January 1, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A few weeks ago, Hospital Corporation of America had a rather substantial EMR outage. The outage, which was caused by a problem with storage hardware, lasted about 24 hours. It largely affected a portion of the 50 hospitals it operates in Florida, but some of the 115 HCA hospitals located outside Florida were impacted too.

Though large EMR outages are worth noting, my purpose in writing this blog is not to slam HCA. Actually, HCA staffers seem to have been prepared for the worst. In fact, according to an article from the Healthcare Financial Management Association, HCA built resiliency into its EMR rollout and operations process. And that is interesting indeed.

Hiring for talent and attitude

To roll out an EMR across its large network of hospitals, HCA leaders settled on an unusual strategy.  Rather than sign up a cadre of pure HIT specialists, HCA decided to hire professionals across a wide variety of disciplines.

As it turned out, all of the 120 EMR implementation specialists it hired were under age 30, with strong organizing, communication and collaborative skills. Their degrees included English, marketing and biomedical science.

Training for rollout

To train the newly-blessed specialists, HCA created hCare University. The new team members got four to six weeks of training, including both hands-on and classroom education, in vital skills such as working with clinicians and managing projects.

hCare University also taught the implementation specialists HCA’s EMR methodology, refining the approach — and how it taught that approach — over time. HCA trialed its methods at one pilot hospital, then two more, and eventually rolled it out to 20 to 40 hospitals at a time, HFMA reports.

Stressing inclusiveness and communication

As the rollout progressed, hCare teachers and system leaders continued to hammer home the importance of effective communication — and just as importantly, making sure that clinicians felt included.

“We probably spent as much, if not more, time on the people aspects as on the technology,” said consultant Mary Mirabelli, who oversaw the rollout, as well as HCA’s Stage 1 Meaningful Use efforts. “Because you’re expecting clinicians to exhibit new behaviors and embrace a system that is sometimes not well designed for their needs, you have to figure out ways to give them control and involve them in decision making.”

Now, I admit to being a bit biased, as I’m the kind of liberal arts jack-of-all-trades HCA relied on to supervise its rollout. And I want to emphasize that I’m not suggesting that traditional HIT hires are per-se inflexible!

That being said (having declared my prejudices), I would tend to believe that HCA is telling the truth when it asserts that staff confidently worked around the outage, despite its length and breadth.  I would assert that mixing in people whose primary skills are “soft” with HIT pros is an excellent way to support a resilient attitude when EMR problelms emerge.

Investing in people who can coordinate with all sides is actually good for HIT staffers. After all, doesn’t it benefit the HIT department when other folks are out there building good will, fostering cooperation and (in hopefully rare cases) minimizing damage to morale when snags or outages occur?

Healthcare IT Jobs – The Move from Consultant to FTE

Posted on June 19, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In hospital IT we’re seeing a lot of changes happening with how a hospital IT department staffs itself. The past couple years, most hospitals have been busy implementing their EHR. This required them to hire a lot of EHR consulting companies that could scale up their manpower requirements for the implementation. In fact, many of these so called EHR consulting companies were actually just staff augmentation companies dressed as consultants. I even noted that the Healthcare IT Industry was addicted to consultants.

I think over the last 6 or so months, we’ve seen a move away from hiring as many consultants (we still love a good consultant) towards hiring more FTEs in hospital IT. This makes sense. As the EHR product has matured, the manpower needs are more stable and so it makes a lot of sense to hire a full time person to manage the ongoing needs.

We’ve seen that first hand on our healthcare IT job board. There are still some lingering consulting positions that are needed for the remaining EHR implementations, but hospitals are hiring more FTEs. I think this trend will continue for a good while to come.

In fact, we’re seeing a shift in consulting. Many EHR consulting companies are turning into EHR help desks. Others are going after value based reimbursement and healthcare analytics. In some cases, the consulting companies are turning into product companies. In other cases, they’re finally starting to consult.

Behold The Arrival of The Chief Mobile Healthcare Officer

Posted on June 9, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Managing fleets of mobile devices is an increasingly important part of a healthcare IT executive’s job. Not only must IT execs figure out how to provide basic OS and application support – and whether to permit staffers and clinicians to do the job with their own devices – they need to decide when and if they’re ready to begin integrating these devices into their overall lines of service. And to date, there’s still no standard model using mobile devices to further hospital or medical practice goals, so a lot of creativity and guesswork is involved.

But over time, it seems likely that health systems and medical practices will go from tacking mobile services onto their infrastructure to leading their infrastructure with mobile services. Mobile devices won’t just be a bonus – an extra way for clinicians to access EMR data or consumers to check lab results on a portal – but the true edge of the network. Mobile applications will be as much a front door to key applications as laptop and desktop computers are today.

This will require a new breed of healthcare IT executive to emerge: the mobile healthcare IT leader. It’s not that today’s IT leaders aren’t capable of supervising large mobile device deployments and integration projects that will emerge as mHealth matures. But it does seem likely that even the smartest institutional HIT leader won’t be able to keep up with the pace of change underway in the mHealth market today.

After all, new approaches to deploying mHealth are emerging almost daily, from advances in wearables to apps offering increasingly sophisticated ways of tracking patient health to new approaches to care coordination among patients, caregivers and friends. And given how fast the frontier of mHealth is evolving, it’s likely that healthcare organizations will want to develop their own hybrid approaches that suit their unique needs.

This new “chief mobile healthcare officer” position should begin to appear even as you read this article. Just as chief medical information officers began to be appointed as healthcare began to turn on digital information, CMHOs will be put in place to make sense of, and plan a coherent future for, the daily use of mobile technology in delivering care. The CMHO probably won’t be a telephony expert per se  (though health systems may scoop up leaders from the health divisions of say, Qualcomm or Samsung) but they’ll bring a broad understanding of the uses of and potential for mobile healthcare. And the work they do could transform the entire institution they serve.

CIOs Want More Responsibility — And It’s About Time They Get It

Posted on January 19, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

The life of a healthcare CIO is a tough one. More than ever before, healthcare CIOs walk a fine line between producing great technical results and thinking strategically about how technology serves clinicians. As with their more junior peers, many healthcare CIOs only get noticed when something breaks or goes offline. Worse, healthcare CIOs may get the blame dumped on them when a big project — especially a mission-critical one like an EMR implementation — fails due to problems beyond their control.

But despite the political battles they must fight, and the punishing demands they must meet, healthcare CIOs are largely satisfied with their career paths — as long as they have a shot at getting more responsibility that can help them move their organization’s strategy forward. This, at least, is the conclusion of a new survey by SSi-SEARCH.

SSi-SEARCH surveyed 169 CIOs to learn how they felt about key aspects of their job, according to iHealthBeat.  All told, the researchers found that CIOs are most satisfied with the trajectory of their career, compensation and strategic involvement. (This is a significant change from a couple of years ago, when CIOs told SSi-SEARCH that their pay wasn’t keeping up with the growth in their responsibilities.)

On the other hand, healthcare CIOs were markedly dissatisfied with the resources available to them, and almost half (48%) said that there will need to be changes within the next year. That’s certainly no surprise. As we’ve noted in this space before, not only do healthcare CIOs need to implement or further augment EMRs and handle the switch from ICD-9 to ICD-10, many need to make costly upgrades to or replace their revenue cycle management systems.

Even if their institution can’t increase their budget, healtlhcare CIOs would be somewhat mollified if they got some respect for some of the softer skills they bring to the table.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they wanted recognition for improving patient safety, 44 percent said they wanted to be recognized for innovation, and 37 percent wanted CEOs to appreciate their skill at “bringing departments together,”  SSi-SEARCH found.

Not surprisingly, they want to be appreciated for their overall contributions to their institutions as well. While 69 percent of CIOs felt that their work was “critically important” to the strategic mission of their organization, and 29 percent felt they had been “very important,” some of their employers don’t seem to see it. In fact, 23 percent of those CIOs surveyed felt that they hadn’t been recognized at all.

Sadly, though the healthcare CIO’s job has evolved far from bits and bytes to projects and strategies that directly impact outcomes, not every institution is ready to give them credit. But if they have CIOs pigeonholed as tech wizards, they’d better change their tune.

Giving CIOs the latitude, responsibility and budget they need to do a great job is enormously important. If healthcare organizations don’t, they’ll never meet the demands they currently face, much less emerging problems like population health management, big data and mobile health. This is a make-or-break moment in the dance between healthcare organizations and IT, and it’s not a good time for a misstep.

Healthcare IT Consulting Job Slowdown

Posted on December 1, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A recent poll on HIStalk, caught my eye. In the poll he asked readers “For health systems: how much IT related consulting will you use in 2015 vs. 2014?” Here’s an image of the responses:
Healthcare IT Consulting

It seems only fair to acknowledge that this wasn’t a deep study. It was an online poll with plenty of potential sample bias. Plus, it only had 107 respondents to the poll. Especially with it being an online poll, I’d have liked to see more respondents. However, it’s worth noting that 50% of those who did respond are planning to use less healthcare IT consulting in 2015. Although, just as surprising is that 14% plan to use more health IT consulting.

This was somewhat expected from my point of view. The consulting market just exploded over the past couple years as hospitals raced to implement an EHR and show meaningful use. As that program has started to mature, there isn’t as much need for consultants. So, it’s no surprise that the government incentivized EHR consulting market would contract back down to a more reasonable market.

That’s not to say that there aren’t still lots of opportunities for EHR consulting still. In fact, I’d argue that the opportunity for EHR consulting has never been bigger. It’s the EHR staff augmentation companies which often dress up as EHR consultants that are likely taking the hit. My feeling is that EHR staff augmentation is way down and EHR consulting is going to continue trending up. All of these hospitals need to start maximizing their EHR investment. That requires a consultant as opposed to more hands on deck for the EHR go-live.

We’re currently seeing this play out on the Healthcare IT Central job board. The type of jobs that are being posted are much more advanced. Plus, we’re seeing a maturing of EHR adoption and that’s shifting towards more full time EHR staff vs consulting.

What are you seeing in the market? Are you using more health IT consultants or fewer? Where do you see the industry headed?

Monday Health IT Potpurri

Posted on August 25, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.


This is a little bit self serving since Dan’s tweet includes a link to my article on EMR and EHR called, “If You Were an EHR, Which Would You Be?” Although, that post was 19 days ago, so it’s fantastic that Dan loved it enough to tweet it again. Plus, I’m sure that hospital readers will love that article. Side Note: Be sure to subscribe to all the other Healthcare Scene blogs here.


This shouldn’t be surprising. ACOs only require basics. Once they start requiring advanced capabilities, then they’ll built them.


Good advice from Cassie on LinkedIn. Good advice for anyone looking for a healthcare IT job is to get brushed up on LinkedIn. Not to mention uploading your health IT resume to Healthcare IT Central.

Hospital EMR and EHR Recruiting

Posted on April 17, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Late last year, I acquired the healthcare IT career website Healthcare IT Central. Since bringing Healthcare IT Central into the Healthcare Scene family, I’ve dove head first into the healthcare IT Recruiting and career space. It’s been quite an adventure with a lot of great learning for me along the way.

What I’ve learned most is that there are some really amazing people working in healthcare IT and some really amazing companies that are trying their best to make healthcare better. There are a lot of screwed up things in healthcare, but the people are generally good people and a real pleasure to work with.

Health IT Job Seekers
If you’re in the job market and looking for a healthcare IT job, take a few minutes to register as a job seeker where you can upload your resume and apply for jobs at some of the top healthcare IT companies. Also, be sure to check out some of these popular job searches:

Of course, you can always do your own health IT job search using the criteria that matter for you. All of this is all free for the job seeker.

Health IT Employers
If you’re a health IT company or a hospital organization looking to hire qualified healthcare IT professionals, you can register and post your jobs as well. We just passed over 20,000 registered job seekers and are getting close to 11,000 active health IT focused resumes.

We also have other options available to employers like eNewsletter sponsorships (almost 16,000 email subscribers), webinars, and resume database access where you can search for specific candidates.

We’re working really hard to be an amazing health IT career resource for both job seekers and employers. If you have any feedback on the site and what we’re doing, we’d love to hear it on our contact us page.

Healthcare Generalists vs. Specialists

Posted on August 7, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The good people over at Healthcare IS have put together an interesting slide share discussing whether contractors should be generalists or specialists. You can see the slideshow embedded below:

I especially like the chart on slide 6 which shows the way a hiring manager looks at the skill profile of a possible hire. It makes a solid case for why it’s better for a contractor to specialize in one application as opposed to being a generalist that can work on all the various applications.

Of course, this is a great strategy if you choose an application that sticks around for a long time to come. However, if you’re a specialist on an EHR application that gets sunset, then you’re going to regret putting all of your eggs in one basket.

What does seem to hold true is that people who specialize get paid more. I just wonder if someone can specialize in a certain vertical category as opposed to specializing in a particular software application. If someone becomes an expert at implementing lab software across all the top lab software, that seems to be a different way to specialize, but not put your skills all in one vendors basket.

The other way to diversify your skill set is to focus on two major vendors. This way you still have deep expertise in both software systems, but you still have some diversification in case something goes south for a vendor.

The other thing to consider when thinking about being a generalist or a specialist is that most people enjoy being a generalist a lot more than being a specialist. As they say, “variety is the spice of life.” Certainly, there is a lot more to the decision of generalist vs specialist than just money. Although, I’m certain that every generalist who’s out of work would give up that “spice” for a paycheck.

Do you see this trend in your organizations? Do you want to hire the person who’s most specialized over someone who’s more of a generalist?