Electronic Health Records

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Complaints Follow Banner Health Cerner EHR Implementation in AZ

Cerner EHR technology is at the center of a debate over delays at Tucson hospitals and facilities.

Cerner EHR under scrutiny following implementation

Source: Thinkstock

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- A hospital EHR system continues to be a source of frustration at Banner Health’s Tucson facilities, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Over the weekend, Stephanie Innes reported difficulties stemming from the Cerner EHR implementation completed in October in form of slowdowns tied to the $45-million EHR replacement of its former Epic EHR.

The Epic-to-Cerner switch followed Banner Health’s acquisition of the University of Arizona Health Network in 2015. Two years prior to its sale, the UA Health Network completed a $115-million Epic implementation. In 2014, a financial report to the health system’s board attributed $6.8 million in losses for provider EHR training and lost productivity (among $32 million in unbudgeted costs) in 2013.

Not long after the acquisition, Banner Health officials announced that UA Health Network’s two Tucson hospitals would abandon their Epic EHR in favor of Cerner’s — unsurprising considering that the former is a Cerner shop across the 28 hospitals comprising its health system.

At that time, former board chair Steve Lynn noted that the Epic-to-Cerner transition would be less difficult than the shift from paper to electronic charts.

“Obviously there was pain and suffering. But the good news is that there’s enough similarity between the two,” Lynn told the Arizona Daily Star. “It is much more difficult to go from non-electronic to electronic than from one electronic system to another.”

History, however, has a way of repeating itself. The second EHR system in five years has led to setbacks as providers learn the Cerner EHR replacement system, Tucson hospital officials confirmed.

The Cerner EHR went live on October 1 and Banner Health Chief Clinical Officer John Hensing, MD, detailed a rather “painful” experience moving between the current and previous EHR systems.

“There will be a degradation in the way the system operates,” Hensing maintained. “Patients and physicians, and nurses and others will almost certainly experience that. That is true for any new application like this. It’s a complicated event to move everyone from one system to another.”

According to Hensing, the drop-off in productivity will dissipate by the end of the year. In the meantime, hospital officials are taking proactive steps to address negative effects of the EHR transition on the patient experience.

“We don’t want patients to wait or receive slow service, so we have been actively reaching out to reschedule appointments if we are running behind,” they told the news outlet. “We strive to make health care easier, and are disappointed when that doesn’t happen. We are focused on improving the current experience for patients, and eliminating delays that have been caused by this transition.”

That work aside, the state’s health agency is investigating complaints about the new EHR system which Banner Health is cooperating with although hospital officials note that such concerns occur during EHR implementation of a large size and scale.

Earlier this month, reports of challenging Cerner implementation emerged in Texas. Medical Center Health System claimed to have experienced persistent billing problems and rising tensions between management and hospital staff following an EHR go-live earlier this year.

Despite completing 18 months of training prior to the system go-live, MCHS hospital administration informed the Ector County Hospital District Board of significant billing issues three months after the implementation was complete. A report by independent consultant Financial Resources Group (FRG) showed confusion and complications quickly began to bog down hospital administration as staff and management quarreled over who was at fault for billing snags.

“Cerner’s a huge issue in here,” Hospital District One Board Member Bryn Dodd told Odessa American.  “What’s frustrating about that is that at all of the meetings since March that we’ve talked about Cerner, administration have always made it sound like it was a very smooth transition.”

Despite some board members insisting Cerner is partly to blame for not providing adequate training and assistance, others maintain these technological and administrative complications are the norm as hospital staff adjusts to the new system.

“All hospitals throughout the state are having these issues,” District Seven Board Member Ben Quiroz stated.

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