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Boston Children’s Benefits From the Carequality and CommonWell Agreement

Posted on February 3, 2017 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.

Recently two of the bigger players working on health data interoperability – Carequality and the CommonWell Health Alliance – agreed to share data with each other. The two, which were fierce competitors, agreed that CommonWell would share data with any Carequality participant, and that Carequality users would be able to use the CommonWell record locator service.

That is all well and good, but at first I wasn’t sure if it would pan out. Being the cranky skeptic that I am, I assumed it would take quite a while for the two to get their act together, and that we’d hear little more of their agreement for a year or two.

But apparently, I was wrong. In fact, a story by Scott Mace of HealthLeaders suggests that Boston Children’s Hospital and its physicians are likely to benefit right away. According to the story, the hospital and its affiliated Pediatric Physicians Organization at Children’s Hospital (PPOC) will be able to swap data nicely despite their using different EMRs.

According to Mace, Boston Children’s runs a Cerner EMR, as well as an Epic installation to manage its revenue cycle. Meanwhile, PPOC is going live with Epic across its 80 practices and 400 providers. On the surface, the mix doesn’t sound too promising.

To add even more challenges to the mix, Boston Children’s also expects an exponential jump in the number of patients it will be caring for via its Medicaid ACO, the article notes.

Without some form of data sharing compatibility, the hospital and practice would have faced huge challenges, but now it has an option. Boston Children’s is joining CommonWell, and PPOC is joining Carequality, solving a problem the two have struggled with for a long time, Mace writes.

Previously, the story notes, the hospital tried unsuccessfully to work with a local HIE, the Mass Health Information HIway. According to hospital CIO Dan Nigrin, MD, who spoke with Mace, providers using Mass Health were usually asked to push patient data to their peers via Direct protocol, rather than pull data from other providers when they needed it.

Under the new regime, however, providers will have much more extensive access to data. Also, the two entities will face fewer data-sharing hassles, such as establishing point-to-point or bilateral exchange agreements with other providers, PPOC CIO Nael Hafez told HealthLeaders.

Even this step upwards does not perfect interoperability make. According to Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, providers leveraging the CommonWell/Carequality data will probably customize their experience. He contends that even those who are big fans of the joint network may add, for example, additional record locator services such as one provided by Surescripts. But it does seem that Boston Children’s and PPOC are, well, pretty psyched to get started with data sharing as is.

Now, back to me as Queen Grump again. I have to admit that Mace paints a pretty attractive picture here, and I wish Boston Children’s and PPOC much success. But my guess is that there will still be plenty of difficult issues to work out before they have even the basic interoperability they’re after. Regardless, some hope of data sharing is better than none at all. Let’s just hope this new data sharing agreement between CommonWell and Carequality lives up to its billing.

An Effective Strategy for Long-term Epic Training

Posted on January 27, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Chris Cooley, Training Advisor at Pivot Point Consulting, a Vaco Company.

Ensuring that you have enough staff to cover day-to-day, new-hire, remedial, and monthly EHR update training is not an easy task. At the most recent Epic User Group Meetings and Spring Councils, sessions dedicated to building steady training teams were among the best attended. To be sure, Epic training is a hot topic in healthcare organizations—particularly as it relates to new hires. Here are some best-practice suggestions to help establish a long-term and successful Epic training program.

The Necessary Evils

eLearning
Many organizations are opting for eLearning in lieu of classroom training to reach multiple groups. The difficulty with this approach is the inability to truly know if the participant grasped the material. Most participants can pass a quick post-exam without completely understanding or retaining the information.

Timing is also an issue. Even a two-day lapse between an eLearning session and practicing the learned material can pose the risk of an 80 percent information loss, requiring retraining or additional support during the first shift following training. That said, when used correctly, eLearning can be quite effective when used in conjunction with traditional classroom training and immediate practice.

For those familiar with Epic, an interactive eLearning session that speaks to the specifics of your organization can easily be implemented in lieu of classroom training. When using eLearning, make sure to follow adult learning principles. Keep courses short, interactive, and challenging to keep end users engaged. To help participants retain information, include built-in exercises to prevent advancing without completing an action.

Classroom Training
In a preceptor-led training model, about four to eight hours of classroom training should be sufficient. Stick to the basics of navigation, terminology, and one or two main workflows to get comfortable working in the system.

For physicians, schedule a one-on-one follow-up with the trainer to set up preference lists and customizations within the same week. Avoid doing this day one or two, as the physician will need to be familiar with the existing orders and sets before customizing further.

Beyond the Classroom

Routine Training Integration
Standard training and orientation programs offer great opportunities to incorporate Epic-specific training elements where applicable. Nurses, for example, have a day or more of skill validation when starting a new position. For every skill they perform, an Epic training opportunity exists. Have participants find the order in Epic, perform the skill, then document the appropriate procedure and follow up. Collaborate with the education department and affected department leaders to add Epic workflows into routine training outlets.

Preceptorship
Learning happens best when on the floor, in the department, or repeatedly completing a task. Assign new hires a preceptor who is well versed in Epic and department workflows. Have them log in and perform the work while the preceptor guides them through their duties. After two to three days of side-by-side work, your new employee should be off and running.

Draw preceptors from within the new employee’s department and remove them from their daily duties when onboarding new hires. Choose your preceptors wisely. Just because Jane Doe is the resident Epic expert on your floor doesn’t mean she’ll be the best preceptor. Look for someone who embodies your organization’s culture, is a cheerleader for Epic, and has the patience to answer the same question multiple times.

Other Considerations

Materials
Materials must be well written, well organized, and—most important—accessible. Often, materials are outdated, in print form only, or not easily found by the end user. The use and regular maintenance of Learning Home Dashboards can ensure the latest materials are organized, intuitive, and available.

Consider turning tip sheets into two-minute-or-less video snippets. More often than not, watching and then repeating a process is preferable to deciphering a tip sheet and/or screen shots—especially for physicians and millennials looking for the quickest answer.

Remedial Training
While new hires account for about 30-50 percent of a trainer’s time, some individuals or departments will always need a little extra help. For example, evaluating a workflow to offer a faster/easier process, retraining, or providing additional one-on-one time with the end user can account for another 20 percent of a trainer’s time.

Update Training
Each month, a new set of Epic updates must be showcased to employees. This can be accomplished via monthly training or eLearning. In my experience, the time to coordinate and deliver monthly update training accounts for about 10 percent of the trainer’s time.

Rounding
End users often struggle in silence. When my trainers are not actively training, or working on materials, they are rounding in the departments they support looking for opportunities to strengthen knowledge. In addition to rounding, trainers attend huddles and meetings, offer help, and bring vital intel about updated or ill-working workflows to the principal trainer’s attention.

Help Desk
Trainers will also spend a good deal of time working “tickets” to assist end users (and often analysts) in identifying and communicating problems and resolutions.

Learning Management System (LMS) Administration
Hundreds of small details go into ensuring that Epic training is meeting the needs of an organization.  Who is expected in training? When and where can training be held? Who has completed training and can be activated in the system? It is imperative to dedicate at least one full time LMS administrator or coordinator to these ongoing Epic needs. Depending on the organization’s size, this may require up to four full-time resources.

Effective Coverage 
The number of Epic trainers needed will vary according to the organization’s size and hiring volume. Depending on the application and the hiring schedule, your principal trainer may be able to handle all training without the support of additional resources. However, I recommend having at least one credentialed trainer available for backup—to cover vacations, assist in remedial training, etc. Consider cross-training to make trainers versatile in related apps. Maintain expertise amongst your trainers by limiting cross-training to three areas of focus.

The example below includes enough trainers to cover the needs of a two hospital system and surrounding clinics in the same geographical location.

CT1: SBO, HB/PB
CT2 ClinDoc, Stork, Orders
CT3 ClinDoc, Beaker, Orders
CT4 Ambulatory, HOD, Cadence
CT5 Ambulatory, HOD, Cadence
CT6 Radiant, Cupid
CT7 Beacon, Willow
CT8 ASAP, OpTime, ANA
CT9 HIM, GC
CT10 HIM, GC

 

PT1 GC, Cadence
PT2 Ambulatory, HOD
PT3 ClinDoc, Stork
PT4 Orders, ASAP, Beaker
PT5 OpTime, ANA
PT6 Radiant, Cupid
PT7 Beacon, Willow
PT8 HIM, HB, PB, SBO

 
Creating partnerships throughout your organization, along with a steady, recurring training schedule, is the key to running an efficient, low-budget training team. With exceptional, easily accessible training materials and operational preceptors, training can be efficient, low-cost, and have employees in their positions with minimal classroom time.

About Chris Cooley
Chris Cooley is a Subject Matter Expert for the LIVESite division of Pivot Point Consulting, a Vaco Company. Previously, she worked as a full-time training manager, with 14 EMR implementations under her belt. With a combined knowledge of adult learning principles, technical writing, project management and the healthcare world, Chris is known for her creative solutions.

Do Health IT Certificate Of Need Requirements Make Sense?

Posted on January 23, 2017 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 other day, I read an interesting piece about the University of Vermont Medical Center’s plans to create an integrated EMR connecting its four network hospitals. The article noted that unlike its peers in some other states, UVMC was required to file a Certificate of Need (CON) application with the state before it proceeds with the work.  And that struck me as deserving some analysis.

According to a story appearing in Healthcare Informatics,  UVMC plans to invest an initial $112.4 million in the project, which includes an upgrade to informatics, billing and scheduling systems used by UVMC and network facilities Central Vermont Medical Center, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital and Elizabethtown Community Hospital. The total costs of implementing and operating the integrated system should hit $151.6 million over the first six years. (For all of you vendor-watchers, UVMC is an Epic shop.)

In its CON application, UVMC noted that some of the systems maintained by network hospitals are 20 years old and in dire need of replacement. It also asserted that if the four hospitals made upgrades independently rather than in concert, it would cost $200 million and still leave the facilities without a connection to each other.

Given the broad outline provided in the article, these numbers seem reasonable, perhaps even modest given what execs are trying to accomplish. And that would be all most hospital executives would need to win the approval of their board and steam ahead with the project, particularly if they were gunning for value-based contracts.

But clearly, this doesn’t necessarily mean that such investments aren’t risky, or don’t stand a chance of triggering a financial meltdown. For example, there’s countless examples of health systems which have faced major financial problems (like this and this),  operational problems (particularly in this case) or have been forced to make difficult tradeoffs (such as this). And their health IT decisions can have a major impact on the rest of the marketplace, which sometimes bears the indirect costs of any mistakes they make.

Given these concerns, I think there’s an argument to be made for requiring hospitals to get CONs for major health IT investments. If there’s any case to be made for CON programs make any sense, I can’t see why it doesn’t apply here. After all, the idea behind them is to look at the big picture rather than incremental successes of one organization. If investment in, say, MRIs can increase costs needlessly, the big bucks dropped on health IT systems certainly could.

Part of the reason I sympathize with these requirements is I believe that healthcare IS fundamentally different than any other industry, and that as a public good, should face oversight that other industries do not. Simply put, healthcare costs are everybody’s costs, and that’s unique.

What’s more, I’m all too familiar with the bubble in which hospital execs and board members often live. Because they are compelled to generate the maximum profit (or excess) they can, there’s little room for analyzing how such investments impact their communities over the long term. Yes, the trend toward ACOs and population health may mitigate this effect to some degree, but probably not enough.

Of course, there’s lots of arguments against CONs, and ultimately against government intervention in the marketplace generally. If nothing else, it’s obvious that CON board members aren’t necessarily impartial arbiters of truth. (I once knew a consultant who pushed CONs through for a healthcare chain, who said that whichever competitor presented the last – not the best — statistics to the room almost always won.)

Regardless, I’d be interested in studying the results of health IT CON requirements in five or ten years and see if they had any measurable impact on healthcare competition and costs.  We’d learn a lot about health IT market dynamics, don’t you think?

Top Hospital EMR and EHR Blog Posts for 2016

Posted on December 30, 2016 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.

It’s that time of year when you look back at the past year and think about what you’ve accomplished. At Hospital EMR and EHR, we like to look back at the stats for the top blog posts we’ve published. It’s always interesting to see what’s resonated with people. Plus, it’s interesting to see how things have changed since we’ve posted on a topic. So, without further ado, here’s a look at the top blog posts in 2016 for Hospital EMR and EHR along with some commentary on each.

1. Why Is It So Hard to Become a Certified Epic consultant? – This is by far the top post generating 4-10 times as much traffic as the posts below.  It’s also why I’ve wanted to make the time to do a whole series of blog posts on Epic Certification and along with it Cerner Certification, MEDITECH Certification, etc.  When you make something like Epic Certification hard to get, people want it even more.  It’s just too bad they’re so closed since it drives up the prices for Epic consultants and thus the cost to implement Epic.  Certainly, we’ll be writing about this more in the future.

2. NYC Hospitals Face Massive Problems With Epic Install – This was a big story back in 2013 and still is today.  We should probably look at doing a follow up story to see what’s happening at NYC hospitals a few years after this story hit.

3. Epic Install Triggers Loss At MD Anderson – No surprise, people love to read about challenges in EHR implementations.  We saw quite a few of these from Epic in 2016 and people were interested in what went wrong.  The problem from the outside is it’s really hard to know who is to blame for the failure.  What has become clear over this year is that many healthcare organizations are blaming Epic for their revenue issues.

4. Hospital EMR and EHR Vendors – This page needs some work, but no doubt many people want to know who the big players in the hospital EMR and EHR market are.  This is true if they’re selecting a new EHR, switching EHR or looking to partner with EHR companies.

5. Why Do People Dislike Epic So Much? Let Me Count The Ways – This post is 5.5 years old and still going strong.  I imagine many people are still counting the ways they hate Epic.  I think I read that Epic finally hired a PR person.  Maybe that new hire can work on this.

6. A Study on the Impact of ICD-10 on Coding and Revenue Cycle – This was a good study that illustrated the impact of ICD-10.  It also gave some good words of caution about the impact of ICD-10 going forward.

7. Epic EMR Costs Drag Down Finances At Brigham and Women’s – Another example of the cost to implement Epic.  I knew this was a hot topic this year and the stats show that people were interested in the details.

8. The Argument for Meditech – I can’t believe this post is 5 years old already, but it still rings true today.  MEDITECH is not without its challenges, but it also doesn’t get the credit it deserves either.  I had a chance to visit their offices near Boston this year.  I’ll be really interested to see where MEDITECH takes their product next.  Many people have counted them out, but I certainly haven’t.

9. Can HIM Professionals Become Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialists? – We’ve published a lot about the changing world of HIM thanks to our new series of HIM Scene blog posts.  This post was a great example of how there are a lot of new opportunities for HIM professionals that are willing to embrace change and adapt as needed.

10. Great Healthcare IT Leaders – This is a great list of healthcare IT leaders as shared by David Chou.  David made the case for meeting up with them at HIMSS 2016, but the nice part is thanks to social media you can follow most of them year round.

An honorable mention to the 11th post on the list which talks about Dr. Rasu Shrestha helping an injured passenger on his way to HIMSS 2016.  Love stories like this.  Did you have a favorite post on Hospital EMR and EHR?  Was there an idea or concept you read on Hospital EMR and EHR?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Access To Electronic Health Data Saves Money In Emergency Department

Posted on October 24, 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 new research study has found that emergency department patients benefit from having their electronic health records available when they’re being treated. Researchers found that when health information was available electronically, the patient’s care was speeded up, and that it also generated substantial cost savings.

Researchers with the University of Michigan School of Public Health reviewed the emergency department summaries from 4,451 adult and pediatric ED visits for about one year, examining how different forms of health data accessibility affected patients.

In 80% of the cases, the emergency department had to have all or part of the patient’s medical records faxed to the hospital where they were being treated. In the other 20% of the cases, however, where the ED staff had access to a patient’s complete electronic health record, they were seen much more quickly and treatment was often more efficient.

Specifically, the researchers found that when information requests from outside organizations were returned electronically instead of by fax, doctors saw that information an hour faster, which cut a patient’s time in the ED by almost 53 minutes.

This, in turn, seems to have reduced physicians’ use of MRIs, x-rays and CT scans by 1.6% to 2.5%, as well as lowering the likelihood of hospital admission by 2.4%. The researchers also found that average cost for care were $1,187 lower when information was delivered electronically.

An interesting side note to the study is that when information was made available electronically on patients, it was supplied through Epic’s Care Everywhere platform, which is reportedly used in about 20% of healthcare systems nationwide. Apparently, the University of Michigan Health System (which hosted the study) doesn’t belong to an HIE.

While I’m not saying that there’s anything untoward about this, I wasn’t surprised to find principal author Jordan Everson, a doctoral candidate in health services at the school, is a former Epic employee. He would know better than most how Epic’s health data sharing technology works.

From direct experience, I can state that Care Everywhere isn’t necessarily used or even understood by employees of some major health systems in my geographic location, and perhaps not configured right even when health systems attempt to use it. This continues to frustrate leaders at Epic, who emphasize time and again that this platform exists, and that is used quite actively by many of its customers.

But the implications of the study go well beyond the information sharing tools U-M Health System uses. The more important takeaway from the study is that this is quantitative evidence that having electronic data immediately available makes clinical and financial sense (at least from the patient perspective). If that premise was ever in question, this study does a lot to support it. Clearly, making it quick and easy for ED doctors to get up to speed makes a concrete difference in patient care.

Cerner Tops List Of Hospital Vendors For Medicare EHR Incentive Program

Posted on September 28, 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.

Research from the ONC concludes that Cerner systems are in use by the most hospitals using certified technology to participate in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. It’s interesting to note that this list includes players that rarely appear on overall lists of top hospital EHR vendors, though admittedly, there’s no one way to measure market dominance that produces consistent results every time.

According to ONC statistics, there were 175 vendors supplying certified health IT to 4,474 nonfederal acute-care hospitals participating in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. Ninety-five percent of these vendors have 2014 certified technology.

The report notes that six of these vendors (Cerner, Meditech, Epic, Evident, Medhost and McKesson) provide 2014 certified technology 92% of hospitals using the technology. When you throw in athenahealth, Prognosis and QuadraMed, bringing the list to 10 vendors, you’ve got a group that supplies 2014 technology to 98% of eligible hospitals.

According to the data, the vendors at the top fall in as follows. Cerner tops the list of total hospitals using its certified health IT, with 1,029 hospitals;  Meditech was next with 953 hospitals; Epic came in third with 869 hospitals; CPSI’s Evident (formerly Healthland) was fourth with 637 hospitals; McKesson fifth with 462 hospitals; and Medhost sixth with 359 hospitals.

As is usually the case with any attempt to look at market share, the data comes with its own quirks. For example, when looking at ONC’s data as of July 2016 on ambulatory healthcare providers choice of certified technology, Epic was way ahead of the pack with 83,674 users. Allscripts came in at a distant second with 33,123 users. Cerner came in sixth with 15,100 ambulatory users. In other words, vendors one might class as “enterprise” focused are doing well among clinicians. (See more data along these lines in a Medscape survey I summarized previously.)

Then consider data from HIMSS Analytics, which concludes that Epic has 40% of the hospital health IT market, followed by Cerner at a distant second with 13%, Allscripts at 10%, Meditech at 7% and eClinicalWorks at 5% and NextGen with 4%. Why the big difference in numbers? It seems that HIMSS Analytics includes the size of the hospital in its calculations versus the ONC data above which talks about the number of hospitals.

No doubt the buying patterns vary when you look at the number of beds a hospital has. For example, according to research done last year by peer60, CPSI and eClinicalWorks held the biggest share of the market among facilities with less than 100 beds, MEDITECH, McKesson and Siemens dominated the mid-sized hospital categories, and as the number of beds rises from 250 to 1000+ plus, Cerner and Epic emerge as the top players.

The truth is, market share numbers are interesting, and not just to the vendors who hope to emerge on top. Everyone loves a good horse race, after all. But it’s good to take these numbers with a large dose of context, or they mean very little.

Is It a Hot or Cold Hospital EHR Buying Market? – Response

Posted on August 15, 2016 I Written By

For the past twenty years, I have been working with healthcare organizations to implement technologies and improve business processes. During that time, I have had the opportunity to lead major transformation initiatives including implementation of EHR and ERP systems as well as design and build of shared service centers. I have worked with many of the largest healthcare providers in the United States as well as many academic and children's hospitals. In this blog, I will be discussing my experiences and ideas and encourage everyone to share your own as well in the comments.

This article is in response to John Lynn’s recent posting, Is It a Hot or Cold Hospital EHR Buying Market?

In his recent posting, John Lynn asked the question “Is it a Hot or Cold Hospital EHR Buying Market?”. In it he highlights a recent KLAS report that over 490 hospitals, a staggering 10% of the entire market, were involved in an EHR decision in 2015. After reading his posting, I wanted to take a moment to share my observations.

2015 was indeed an amazing year for EHR sales, partly driven by the pending sunset date of Mckesson Horizon forcing many customers to switch EHR solutions. Some of those customers are going to Paragon, but many more purchased or are evaluating other solutions. During a recent trip to Epic University, I was surprised to find that nearly half of the attendees of the classes were hospitals switching from Mckesson Horizon to Epic – and all had just recently completed their purchases (late 2015/early 2016) and were facing the same live dates of late 2017/early 2018.

Hospitals who have purchased and implemented Epic or Cerner are very unlikely to make a change. Regardless of which solution is preferred, the investment in these solutions and the level of effort required to switch from one to another is so high, that it would take a significant triggering event for a hospital to make that change. Therefore it is likely that customers on these solutions will not be making a change in the near future.

However, KLAS reports that nearly 40% of MEDITECH customers would change EMR’s if they could, and that Paragon customers also report unrest. Therefore in addition to the shrinking number of those that have not implemented a viable EHR solution, the possibility that there will be a wave of customers switching from one of these solutions to Epic or Cerner remains a consideration. There is also the question of how the recent spin-off of Mckesson’s software division will impact the future of Paragon. If Paragon were discontinued or sold, it could lead to another explosion of EHR decisions. If instead there was a significant investment in the solution, it could become a more viable alternative as customers look to switch from one EHR to another.

I suspect that 2016 will be another strong year from EHR sales in general and for Epic and Cerner in particular. Beyond that, much will depend on the strength of the other solutions and which ones break out into the top tier. Regardless, the recent explosion of EHR sales and the rush to replace Horizon will in many cases lead to minimized installs – where the bare minimum work was completed and there is significant opportunity to improve business processes, implement new modules, and roll out advanced functionality within those solutions. As a result I believe that within a few years, the market will be more stabilized with fewer customers switching solutions, and instead focusing on maximizing what they have.

Unless another player comes in and disrupts the marketplace or a significant shift in the industry creates a reason to make a change yet again…

If you’d like to receive future posts by Brian in your inbox, you can subscribe to future Healthcare Optimization Scene posts here. Be sure to also read the archive of previous Healthcare Optimization Scene posts.

Epic Install Triggers Loss At MD Anderson

Posted on May 31, 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.

Surprising pretty much no one, another healthcare organization has attributed adverse financial outcomes largely to its Epic installation. In this case, the complaining party is the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, which attributes its recent shortfall to both EMR costs and lower revenues. The news follows a long series of cost overruns, losses and budget crises by other healthcare providers implementing Epic of late.

According to Becker’s Hospital CFO, MD Anderson reported adjusted income of $122.9 million during that period a 56.6% drop over the seven-month period ending March 31. During that period, the cancer center’s wages and salaries climbed, and Epic-related consulting costs were climbed as well. This follows a $9.9 million operating loss for the first quarter of the 2016 fiscal year, which the University of Texas attributed to higher-than-expected EMR expenses.

MD Anderson announced its choice of Epic in spring 2013, and went live on the system in March of this year as anticipated. The cancer center’s rollout was guided by Epic veteran Chris Belmont, the center’s CIO, who implemented Epic across 10 hospitals and more than three dozen clinics for New Orleans-based Ochsner Health System.

The organization didn’t announce what it was spending on the Epic install, but we all know it doesn’t come cheap. However, one would think the University of Texas health system could afford the investment. According to EHR Intelligence, the Texas health system ranks in the 99th percentile for net patient revenue in the US, with total revenue topping $5.58 billion.

And UT leaders seem to have been prepared for the bump, reporting that they’d planned for a material impact to revenues and expenses as a result of the Epic implementation. The system didn’t announce any staff cuts, hiring freezes or other budget-trimming moves resulting from these financial issues.

Having said all this, however, no organization wants to see its income drop. So what actually happened?

For example, when the UT system reports that a drop in patient revenues contributed to the drop in income, what does that mean? Does this refer to scheduled drops in patient volume, planned for ahead of time, or problems billing for services? I’d be interested to know if the center managed to keep on top of revenue cycle management during the transition.

Another question I have is what caused the unanticipated expenses. Did they come from contract disputes with Epic? Unexpected technical problems? Markups on consulting services? Or did the organization have to pour money into the project to meet its go-live deadline? There’s a lot of ways to generate costs, and I’d love to get some granular information on what happened.

Also, I wonder what steps UT leaders will take to avoid unexpected expenses in the future. While it may have learned some lessons from the problems it’s had so far, there’s no guarantee that it won’t face of the costly problems going forward.

If, perchance, and the system has figured out how to stay in the black with its Epic investment, it could sell that secret to cover its IT expenses for years. I’m betting other systems would pay good money for that information!

Mayo Clinic’s Shift To Epic Eats Up Most of IT Budget

Posted on May 6, 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.

Mayo Clinic has announced that it will spend about $1 billion to complete its migration from Cerner and GE to Epic. While Mayo hasn’t disclosed they’re spending on software, industry watchers are estimating the agreement will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, with the rest of the $1 billion seemingly going to integration and development costs.

The Clinic said in 2014 that it would invest $1.5 billion in IT infrastructure over multiple years, according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. Then last year, it announced that it would replace Cerner and GE systems with an Epic EMR. Now, its execs say that it will spend more than $1 billion on the transition over five years.

Given what other health system spend on Epic installations, the $1 billion estimate sounds sadly realistic. Facing up to these costs is certainly smarter than lowballing its budget. Nobody wants to be in the position New York City-based Health and Hospitals Corp. has gotten into. The municipal system’s original $302 million budget expanded to $764 million just a couple of years into its Epic install, and overall expenses could hit $1.4 billion.

On the other hand, the shift to Epic is eating up two thirds of the Mayo’s $1.5 billion IT allowance for the next few years. And that’s a pretty considerable risk. After all, the Clinic must have spent a great deal on its Cerner and GE contracts. While the prior investments weren’t entirely sunk costs, as existing systems must have collected a fair amount of data and had some impact on patient care, neither product could have come cheaply.

Given that the Epic deal seems poised to suck the IT budget dry, I find myself wondering what Mayo is giving up:

  • Many health systems have put off investing in up-to-date revenue cycle management solutions, largely to focus on Meaningful Use compliance and ICD-10 preparation. Will Mayo be forced to limp along with a substandard solution?
  • Big data analytics and population health tech will be critical to surviving in ACOs and value-based payment schemes. Will the Epic deal block Mayo from investing?
  • Digital health innovation will become a central focus for health systems in the near future. Will Mayo’s focus on the EMR transition rob it of the resources to compete in this realm?

To be fair, Mayo’s Epic investment obviously wasn’t made in a vacuum. With the EMR vendor capturing a huge share of the hospital EMR market, its IT leaders and C-suite execs clearly had many colleagues with whom they could discuss the system’s performance and potential benefits.

But I’m still left wondering whether any single software solution, provided by a single vendor, offers such benefits that it’s worth starving other important projects to adopt it. I guess that’s not just the argument against Epic, but against the massive investment required to buy any enterprise EMR. But given the extreme commitment required to adopt Epic, this becomes a life-and-death decision for the Mayo, which already saw a drop in earnings last year.

Ultimately, there’s no getting past that enterprise EMR buys may be necessary. But if your Epic investment pretty much ties up your cash, let’s hope something better doesn’t come along anytime soon. That will be one serious case of buyer’s regret.

Looking Into the Future of Hospital EHR

Posted on April 11, 2016 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’ve been thinking a lot lately about where the world of hospital EHR software is going to head. At the top of the market we have Cerner and Epic taking most of the share. As we go down the market we see a lot of other large players, but we still only have 20 or so EHR vendors playing in the hospital EHR world.

In the last year we’ve seen aggressive moves by athenahealth and eCW to enter the hospital EHR space as well after previously only providing ambulatory EHR software. I’ve heard predictions that entrants like these are going to charge significantly less for their EHR software and that’s going to really shake up the market. You can imagine how the discussions in most hospitals will go if there’s an EHR alternative that’s 1/10th the price of their current EHR.

What’s interesting is that I haven’t seen any major moves by the large competitors to really accelerate the services, features, and functions they provide a hospital in order to justify the large premium. If I were Epic or Cerner, I’d be thinking about something really special that we could create that would be cost prohibitive for these new entrants to create. No doubt the Innovator’s Dilemma is at play here. Hard to fight against so much proven history around business dynamics.

Something that’s shocking to me is that these new entrants into the hospital EHR space aren’t really leveraging new technology either. They’re not building new features or functionality that doesn’t exist today (for the most part). They’re using things like cloud and mobile that are now relatively old technologies, but haven’t been applied to healthcare.

Said another way, will doctors love this new breed of hospital EHR any more than the current breed? I believe the answer to that question is no. Doctors will hate this new breed of EHR just as much. With this insight, I could imagine some other companies coming along and creating true innovation with new technologies that today we can’t even imagine. Although, it won’t likely be just technology innovation, but in healthcare it will likely include business model innovation as well.