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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 been working with healthcare organizations to implement technologies and improve business processes for nearly twenty years. 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.

NYC Epic Rollout Faces Patient Safety Questions

Posted on March 30, 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.

In the summer of last year, we laid out for you the story of how a municipal hospital system’s Epic EMR installation had gone dramatically south since its inception. We told you how the New York City-based Health and Hospitals Corp. was struggling to cope with problems arising from its attempt to implement Epic at its 11 hospitals, four long-term care facilities, six diagnostic treatment centers and more than 70 community-based clinics.

At the time of last writing, the project budget had exploded upward from $302 million to $764 million, and the public chain’s CTO, CIO, CIO interim deputy and project head of training had been given the axe. In the unlikely event that you thought things would settle down at that point, we bring you news of further strife and bloodshed.

Apparently, a senior clinical information officer with the chain’s Elmhurst and Queens Hospital Centers has now made allegations that the way the Epic install was proceeding might pose danger to patients. A New York Post article reports that in a letter to colleagues, outgoing HHC official Charles Perry, M.D. compared the EMR implementation process to the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster.

In his letter, Dr. Perry apparently argued that the project must be delayed. According to the Post, he quoted from a presidential panel report on the disaster: “[For] a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” Another Post article cited anonymous “insider” sources claiming that the system will crash, as the implementation is being rushed, and that the situation could lead to patient harm.

For its part, HHC has minimized the issue. A spokesperson told FierceHealthIT that Perry was associate executive director of the Elmhurst hospital and liason to the Queens Epic project, rather than being CMIO as identified by the Post. (Further intrigue?) Also, the spokesperson told FHIT that “if a patient safety issue is identified, the project will stop until it is addressed.”

Of course, the only people who truly know what’s happening with the HHC Epic implementation are not willing to go public with their allegations, so I’d argue that were obligated to take Perry’s statements with at least a grain of salt. In fact, I’d suggest that most large commercial Epic installations (and other large EHR implementations for that matter) got the scrutiny this public hospital system gets, they’d probably look pretty bad too.

On the other hand, it’s fair to say that HHC seems to crammed enough scandal into the first few years of its Epic rollout for the entire 15-year project. For the sake of the millions of people HHC serves, let’s hope that either there is not much to these critiques — or that HHC slows down enough to do the project justice.

GE Healthcare Is Still In The Game

Posted on March 14, 2016 I Written By

David is a global digital healthcare leader that is focusing on the next era of healthcare IT.  Most recently David served as the CIO at an academic medical center where he was responsible for all technology related to the three missions of education, research and patient care. David has worked for various healthcare providers ranging from academic medical centers, non-profit, and the for-profit sectors. Subscribe to David's latest CXO Scene posts here.

Below is the recent press release from GE Healthcare.  Their EMR will be used in the Rio 2016 Olympics which is a great win for GE.  The product has come a long way and they are making some great strides.  The challenge is where will the product fall in a healthcare EMR ecosystem that is predominately Epic and Cerner.   Personally I know of a few organizations that are evaluating a transition away from the GE Centricity platform due to either a merger with a bigger healthcare system that already has an enterprise EMR or they had a bad experience with Centricity and are moving on.  It will be interesting to see in the next 2-3 years how many EMR vendors we will have left.  I will definitely keep an eye on GE to see whether the recent win with the Olympic games will help create positive momentum in 2016.

LAS VEGAS–GE Healthcare announced today the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has selected the company’s Centricity Practice Solution as the official electronic medical record (EMR) to be used by the medical teams of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This marks the first time that all athletes and spectators at the Olympic Games will have their health interactions managed by an electronic medical record. The announcement was made at the 2016 Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Las Vegas.

Centricity Practice Solution will be used for managing data related to injuries and illness for athletes competing in the games as well as spectators, officials, athlete family members and coaches who require medical assistance throughout the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. For the competitors, the data managed during the Games will be used to help drive optimal, individualized care to help athletes compete at a world-class level.

“The Olympic Games is about providing the best possible service to athletes,” said Dr. Richard Budgett, Medical and Scientific Director for the IOC. “The gold medal of medical services is something that is integrated and comprehensive: a total package. Adding access to an electronic medical record is key to our drive towards the prevention of injury. Without a proper medical, longitudinal record, it’s difficult for us to do surveillance and see what injuries are most common in certain sports. This would impact our ability to prevent and measure our effectiveness. The EMR is going to be a cornerstone for our medical services going forward.”

Centricity Practice Solution will be available in English and Portuguese and will provide access to next generation workflows, analytics and data to potentially help optimize athlete performance. The information will be analyzed to spot patterns and provide insights for future Games planning. Additionally, medical teams will be able to access diagnostic images and reports from within the EMR to assist in providing world-class care quickly and efficiently. GE’s EMR will be accessible at any of the multiple medical posts throughout the Games and at the central Polyclinic in the Olympic Village where more complex care is delivered.

“By selecting Centricity Practice Solutions EMR, the IOC is extending the clinical care and data management capabilities pioneered by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), which has used GE’s EMR platform for the past two Olympic Games in London and Sochi,” said Jon Zimmerman, General Manager, GE Centricity Business Solutions. “Incorporating an EMR platform into the healthcare services will enable medical staff at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games access to real time data, analytics and health information to help their athletes perform at peak capabilities.”

If you’d like to receive future health care C-Level executive posts by David in your inbox, you can subscribe to future Health Care CXO Scene posts here.

EMR Usability A Pressing Issue

Posted on January 29, 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 months ago, in a move that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, the AMA and MedStar Health made an interesting play. The physicians’ group and the health system released a joint framework designed to rank EMR usability, as well as using the framework to rank the usability of a number of widely-implemented systems.

What makes these scores interesting is not that they’re just another set of rankings — those are pretty much everywhere — but that the researchers focused on EMR usability. As any clinician will tell you (and many have told me) despite years of evolution, EMRs are still a pain in the butt to use. And clearly, market forces are doing little to change this. Looking at where widely-used systems rate on usability is a refreshing look at a neglected issue.

To score the EMRs, researchers dug into EMR vendor testing reports from ONC. This makes sense. After all, though the agency doesn’t use this data for certification, the ONC does require EMR vendors to report on user-centered design processes they used for eight capabilities.

And while the ONC doesn’t base EMR certifications on usability, my gut feeling is that the data source is pretty reliable. I would tend to believe that given they’re talking to a certifying authority, vendors are less like to fudge these reports than any they’d prepare for potential customers.

According to the partners, Allscripts and McKesson were the highest-scoring EMR vendors, gaining 15 out of 15 points. eClinicalWorks was the lowest-scoring EMR, getting only 5 of 15 possible points. In-betweeners included Cerner and MEDITECH, which got 13 points each, and Epic, which got 9 points.

And here’s the criteria for the rankings:

  • User Centered Design Process:  EMRs were rated on whether they had a user-centered design process, how many participants took part (15+ was best) and whether test participants had a clinical background.
  • Summative Testing Methodology: These ratings focused on how detailed the use cases relied upon by the testing were and whether usability measures focused on appropriate factors (effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction).
  • Summative Testing Results:  These measures focused on whether success rates for first-time users were 80% or more, and on how substantive descriptions of areas for improvement were.

Given the spotty results across the population of EMRs tested, it seems clear that usability hasn’t been a core concern of most vendors. (Yes, I know, some of you are saying, “Boy howdy, we knew that already!”)

Perhaps more importantly, though, it can be inferred that usability hasn’t been a priority for the health systems and practices investing in these products. After all, some of the so-so ratings, such as that for the Epic product, come from companies that have been in the market forever and have had the time to iterate a mature, usable product. If health systems were demanding that EMRs be easy to use, the scores would probably be higher.

Frankly, I can’t for the life of me understand why an organization would invest hundreds of millions of dollars (or even a billion) dollars in an EMR without being sure that clinicians can actually use it. After all, a good EMR experience can be very attractive to potential recruits as well as current clinicians. In fact, a study from early last year found that 79% of RNs see the hospital’s EMR as a one of the top 3 considerations in choosing where to work.

Maybe it’s an artifact of a prior era. In the past, perhaps the health systems investing in less-usable EMRs were just making the best of a shoddy situation. But I don’t think that excuse plays anymore. I believe more providers need to adopt frameworks like this one, and apply them rigorously.

Look, I know that EMR investment is a complex dance. And obviously, notions of usability will continue to evolve as EMRs involve — so perhaps it can’t be the top priority for every buyer. But it’s more than time for health organizations to take usability seriously.

Is An Epic Investment Bad For Health Leaders’ Job Stability?

Posted on January 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.

For quite some time now, the buzz has been that at least one EMR vendor was a safe bet for everyone involved. “No one ever got fired for choosing Epic” has begun to seem as obvious a sentiment as “No one ever got fired for choosing IBM” in hospital C-suites. And certainly, in previous times that was probably true.

But it’s beginning to look as though at least in some cases, Epic has not been as safe a choice as health execs had hoped. In fact, while it’s not exactly a fully-fledged trend, it’s worth noting that Epic-related costs and technical issues have led to job losses for hospital CIOs, as well as other operational leaders, in recent times.

Perhaps the most recent example of Epic-related job attrition took place earlier this month, when the chief information officer and chief operating officer of Denver Health Medical Center. According to the Denver Post, the two executives left their posts in the wake of major disagreements over the medical center’s big investment in an Epic EMR.

The Denver Post story reports that former Denver Health CIO Gregory Veltri was on the outs with CEO Arthur Gonzalez from the outset where Epic was concerned. Apparently, Veltri argued from the get-go that the Epic install costs — which he estimated could hit $300 million when the $70 million cost of dumping the center’s current EMR contract and doubling of its IT staff were computed — stood a chance of bankrupting the hospital. (Gonzalez, for his part, claims that the Epic installation is under budget at $170 million, and says that the system should go live in April.)

In another example of Epic-related turnover, the chief information officer at Maine Medical Center in Portland seems to have left his job at least in part due to the financial impact of the hospital’s $160 million Epic investment. Admittedly, the departure of CIO Barry Blumenfeld may also have been related to technical problems with the rollout which slowed hospital collections. This took place back in 2013, but it still seems noteworthy.

The spring of 2013 also saw the departure of Sheila Sanders, the chief information officer for Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, in the midst of the medical center’s struggles to implement its own Epic system. While Wake Forest Baptist had spent a comparatively modest $13.3 million on direct Epic costs during its second quarter of fiscal 2012-13, the medical center had been socked by delays in revenue resulting to Epic rollout problems, including issues with billing, coding and collections.

Wake Forest Baptist reported taking an $8 million hit that quarter due to “business-cycle disruptions (that) have had a greater-than-anticipated impact on volumes and productivity.” It also reported $26.6 million in lost margin due to reduced volume during go-live and post go-live Epic optimization.

Of course, a botched rollout can mean job insecurity no matter what EMR the hospital has chosen. For example, in May of 2014, Athens Regional Medical Center President and CEO James Thaw was apparently pressured out of office when the facility’s Cerner rollout went poorly. (After weeks of Cerner problems, the hospital’s staff voted 270-0 that they had “no confidence” in the hospital’s leadership. Gulp!) Somehow, Senior Vice President and CIO Gretchen Tegethoff kept her job, but my bet is that it was a close-run thing.

And to be fair, this is obviously a small, selected set of anecdotes about questionable Epic rollouts. They don’t prove that Epic is a CIO job killer or an ineffective EMR. But these stories do highlight the fact that while Epic investments might yield good things, rolling Epic out requires nerves of steel and flawless execution.