Go-live gone wrong

Bernie Monegain | HealthcareITNews | July 31, 2013

Though it seems that much of the healthcare industry is finally on board with making the transition from paper to digital records, the transformation comes with a high price. Much anticipated, and sometimes hyped, electronic health record system rollouts cost millions of dollars and often end up causing chaos, frustration, even firings at hospitals across the country. Case in point: Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine, a 600-bed hospital that is home to the celebrated Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, and a part of the MaineHealth network.

Maine Med’s go-live last December of its estimated $160 million Epic EHR system seemed at first to go off without a hitch. But four months later, the hospital network’s CIO, Barry Blumenfeld, MD, (pictured at right) was out of a job, and, in an April 24 letter to employees, Maine Medical Center President and CEO Richard W. Petersen announced a hiring freeze, a travel freeze – and a delay in the further rollout of the EHR throughout the rest of MaineHealth. “This is being done to concentrate and focus our information systems resources to finding solutions to our revenue capture issues,” Petersen wrote.

The letter, obtained by Healthcare IT News, cited a $13.4 million operating loss the hospital sustained over six months of its fiscal year. Petersen cited as contributing to the loss a decline in patient volumes, the increasing number of patients who can’t afford to pay for their care – and the launch of the electronic health record system. “The launch of the shared electronic health record has had some unintended financial consequences,” Petersen wrote. “While there have been many advantages in the implementation of SeHR, in some cases, we’ve been unable to accurately charge for the services we provide. This lack of charge capture is hurting our financial picture.” A Maine Medical Center nurse told Healthcare IT News the charge capture issue was a serious one...