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Did Hospitals Put Off RCM Upgrades for Nothing?

Posted on May 8, 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.

In December of last year, I wrote a piece outlining a study on revenue cycle management systems by research firm Black Book.  The piece noted that despite hospitals’ desperate need to modernize their RCM platforms, such upgrades were being put off over and over again, largely due to the cost of ICD-10 switchover and Meaningful Use compliance.

It’s hard to say whether ICD-10 prep or  MU compliance have been a greater strain on hospital budgets, but it’s clear that ICD-10 preparations have been a major distraction and a major cost.  Even if a hospital’s EMR has included ICD-10 codes in is platforms or upgrades, hospitals have still had to reconfigure some systems, do revenue impact testing with payers, conduct readiness testing with clearinghouses and train with their claims processing staff, and none of it has been cheap. And the longer hospitals wait to pull the trigger, the worse things get. The American Hospital Association recently estimated that delaying the ICD-10 switchover deadline has cost the hospital industry billions of dollars.

Given the cost of the run-up to the new code set — and the fact that most hospitals report being ready to switch over from ICD-9 — the industry has hoped against hope that the deadline wouldn’t be extended again. In fact, a recently-released survey by software firm QauliTest of more than 150 healthcare executives found that 83% said they think ICD-10 will go live as currently anticipated on Oct. 1.

And that’s where politics enters the picture. While hospitals seem raring to go ahead with the transition and skip any further delays to the deadline,  Texas Rep. Ted Poe (R) has a different outcome in mind.  Perhaps pushed by physicians’ lobbying groups, which still oppose the switch as being too burdensome and costly to handle, Poe has introduced a bill which would actually prohibit HHS from adopting ICD-10 as an ICD-9 replacement.

It’s hard to tell whether the bill will even make it out of the House, as it currently has only six co-sponsors, each fellow Republicans to Poe.  But if it did, hospitals would have plenty to gripe about.

As we’ve pointed out here, one of the major sacrifices hospitals have had to make due to outside forces is to postpone RCM system investment, a lapse which has doubtless cost hospitals plenty due to lost money due to claims processing problems. The longer the need to put off RCM switchovers or improvements lasts, the greater the chance that it hospitals will lose too much to afford on claims old systems can’t handle.

Bottom line, I’d argue that another ICD-10 delay or cancellation of the entire transition would be terribly unfair to hospitals.  If CMS needs to help doctors through the process or even help them pay for it, so be it. Hospitals deserve to be freed to focus on their other IT problems, not wait with bated breath for yet another ICD-10 delay.

1/5th of Hospital EHRs are Poor Fits

Posted on April 6, 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.


This is a really fascinating stat from Black Book. I’d like to dig into their methodology for this question. Defining what’s a “poor” fit is really hard when you realize that a poor fit is defined by hundreds and possibly thousands of EHR users in a hospital.

What I’ve found is that it’s really hard to make broad statements about EHR satisfaction at a hospital. The doctors may hate it, but the executives love it. The front desk may be annoyed by it, but the pharmacy is really happy. The nurses may love it…ok…I don’t think I know of any EHR that’s loved by nurses, but that’s a discussion for another blog post. Nurses often get left out in the EHR design and we’ll leave it at that for now.

With that disclaimer, let’s think about what it means that 20% of hospital EHRs are a poor fit. Does that mean that we’re going to see a wave of EHR switching in the hospital EHR world? I don’t think so.

The reason I don’t think so is that the hospital EHR is too expensive. Plus, changing EHR is so disruptive that you have to be really down on your EHR to actually switch. Sure, some of them are that down on their EHR that they’ll switch EHR. However, most of them don’t like it, but they aren’t ready to go through heart replacement surgery and take out their current EHR and replace it with a new one.

Some other factors at play is that they may not like their current EHR, but it’s the devil they know. That’s a powerful reason not to switch. Also, is there really a better alternative? Many who aren’t satisfied with their EHR aren’t convinced that switching to another EHR will be much better. Plus, many of these organizations are in the middle of meaningful use. If you switch EHR vendors in the middle of meaningful use, you might as well announce that you’ll be taking a year off from meaningful use (and all that entails…ask Intermountain).

While I don’t think we’ll see a wave of immediate EHR switching, once the renewal licenses come up, we’ll see more switching of EHR. Plus, if someone can come out with a high quality cloud based EHR for hospitals, then that could help with switching costs as well. However, until then, hospitals have mostly chosen their horse and now they have to ride it out. Of course, this assumes they don’t get acquired by a larger hospital system and are forced to switch EHR. That’s happening in a big way and is likely to continue.

RNs are Choosing Where to Work Based on Hospital EHR

Posted on February 27, 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.

I came across this tweet and it made me stop and realize how important the selection and more important the implementation of your EHR will be for your organization. In many areas there’s already a nurse shortage, so it would become even more of an issue if your hospital comes to be known as the hospital with the cumbersome EHR.

Here’s some insight into the survey results from the article linked above:

79% of job seeking registered nurses reported that the reputation of the hospital’s EHR system is a top three consideration in their choice of where they will work. Nurses in the 22 largest metropolitan statistical areas are most satisfied with the usability of Cerner, McKesson, NextGen and Epic Systems. Those EHRs receiving the lowest satisfaction scores by nurses include Meditech, Allscripts, eClinicalWorks and HCare.

The article did also quote someone as saying that a well done EHR implementation can be a recruiting benefit. So, like most things it’s a double edge sword. A great EHR can be a benefit to you when recruiting nurses to your organization, but a poorly done, complex EHR could drive nurses away.

I’m pretty sure this side affect wasn’t discussed when evaluating how to implement the EHR and what kind of resources to commit to ensuring a successful and well done EHR implementation. They’re paying the price now.

Hospitals Put Off RCM Upgrades Due To #ICD10, #MU Focus

Posted on December 29, 2014 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.

If you look closely at the financial news coming out of the hospital business lately, you’ll hear the anguished screams of revenue cycle managers whose infrastructure just isn’t up to the task of coping with collections in today’s world. Though members of the RCM department — and outside pundits — have done their best to draw attention to this issue, signs suggest that getting better systems put in has been a surprisingly tough sell. This is true despite a fair amount of evidence from recent hospital financial disasters that focusing on an EMR at the expense of revenue cycle management can be quite destructive.

And a new study underscores the point. According to a recent Black Book survey of chief financial officers, revenue cycle upgrades at U.S. hospitals have taken a backseat to meeting the looming October 2015 ICD-10 deadline, as well as capturing Meaningful Use incentives. Meanwhile, progress on upgrades to revenue cycle management platforms has been agonizingly slow.

According to the Black Book survey, two thirds of hospitals contacted by researchers in 2012 said that they plan to replace their existing revenue cycle management platform with a comprehensive solution. But when contacted this year, two-thirds of those hospitals still hadn’t done the upgrade. (One is forced to wonder whether these hospitals were foolish enough to think the upgrade wasn’t important, or simply too overextended to stick with their plans.)

Sadly, despite the risks associated with ignoring the RCM upgrade issue, a lot of small hospitals seem determined to do so. Fifty-one percent of under 250 bed hospitals are planning to delay RCM system improvements until after the ICD-10 deadline passes in 2015, Black Book found.

The CFOs surveyed by Black Book feel they’re running out of time to make RCM upgrades. In fact, 83% of the CFOs from hospitals with less than 250 beds expect their RCM platforms to become obsolete within two years if not replaced or upgraded, as they’re rightfully convinced that most payers will move to value-based reimbursement. And 95% of those worried about obsolescence said that failing to upgrade or replace the platform might cost them their jobs, reports Healthcare Finance News.

Unfortunately for both the hospitals and the CFOs, firing the messenger won’t solve the problem. By the time laggard hospitals make their RCM upgrades, they’re going to have a hard time catching up with the industry.

If they wait that long, it seems unlikely that these hospitals will have time to choose, test and implement RCM platform upgrades, much less implement new systems, much before early 2017, and even that may be an aggressive prediction. They risk going into a downward spiral in which they can’t afford to buy the RCM platform they really need because, well, the current RCM platform stinks. Not only that, the ones that are still engaged in mega dollar EMR implementations may not be able to afford to support those either.

Admittedly, it’s not as though hospitals can blithely ignore ICD-10 or Meaningful Use. But letting the revenue cycle management infrastructure go for so long seems like a recipe for disaster.