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Epic EHR Contributed to Major Operating Losses for Dana-Farber

The Epic EHR system at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute caused ongoing billing problems leading to significant operating losses.

Epic EHR

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recently claimed problems with its Epic EHR contributed to significant losses and decreased revenue in its third fiscal quarter.

The hospital reported operating losses of $44.2 million in its third quarter ending in June. During the same time last year, Dana-Farber reported operating losses of $6 million.

The cancer center cited ongoing problems with billing due to its Epic EHR software as a major contributing factor leading to the loss of revenue. Implemented in May of 2015, the EHR system allegedly caused the hospital to lose up to $25 million due to billing problems over the past three years.

 “Billing and denial issues are not unusual in the initial phases of an EMR implementation and we planned for it accordingly,” Dana Farber Cancer Institute spokeswoman Ellen Berlin told Boston Business Journal. “However, they were higher than expected. We fully understand the source of the issues and are working diligently to resolve them.”

These billing problems also contributed to an annual loss in net patient service revenue of $2.4 million.

While the hospital stated it has identified where billing problems primarily stem from, issues with the Epic EHR software will take time to resolve. The hospital stated problems will likely persist into fiscal 2018 beginning in October as the hospital modifies its processes.

However, Dana-Farber stated it expects fewer issues in the coming year. The hospital stated the majority of the work needed to fix the system involves internal labor costs rather than additional consulting or IT costs.

Operations will likely return to normal in fiscal 2018 — three and a half years after the EHR system was implemented. Dana-Farber did not specify the exact cost of the Epic EHR implementation.

Ultimately, the challenging fiscal quarter contributed to a $34.9 million operating loss throughout the nine months leading up to June. During the same period of the previous year, the cancer institute had reported a $21 million operating gain.

Billing software is at the center of a lawsuit brought by Wisconsin’s Agnesian Healthcare Inc. against Cerner Corporation that alleges more than $16 million in losses as a result of faulty billing software.

The health system told Kansas City Business Journal that Cerner’s scheduling, billing, and claims software had been causing “pervasive errors” shortly after the system went live in Agnesian ambulatory clinics in 2015.

The not-for-profit health system eventually resorted to issuing payment statements to its patients by hand, leading to a backlog of unprocessed statements and continuing costs of about $200,000 per month.

A Cerner spokesperson has stated Cerner disagrees with the allegations and plans to defend itself in court. 

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