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Epic EHR Implementation Causes Financial Issues at MA Hospital

Less than a year after its Epic EHR implementation, Southcoast Hospital will be laying off 95 employees due to financial issues related to the implementation.

By Sara Heath

- A Massachusetts hospital will be laying off 95 employees as a result of financial losses following an Epic Systems EHR implementation.

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According to Jessica Bartlett of Boston Business Journal, Southcoast Hospital will be cutting one percent of its workforce across all three of its locations in Fall River, Wareham, and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Southcoast Hospital reports that these employee cuts are the result of high costs associated with both the Epic EHR implementation as well as staff training in the new technology. The hospital went live on its new EHR on October 1, 2015.

According to hospital executives, the costs for the EHR were higher than expected, adding to the $9.9 million operating loss the hospital experienced in the first quarter of the 2016 fiscal year. The hospital has reportedly also faced losses in this second quarter.

“These financial challenges are attributable to higher-than-budgeted operating expenses, largely a result of our Epic implementation,” said Southcoast president and CEO Keith Hovan, in a letter to employees.

Hovan also told employees that while the hospital had experienced a four percent increase in revenue, it also saw a six percent increase in expenses. Such a difference in numbers requires mitigation, such as a restructuring of hospital staff.

According to Bartlett, these layoffs come after the hospital has announced merger talks with Rhode Island-based Care New England. However, hospital spokesperson Peter Cohenno says that these layoffs have nothing to do with that merger.

As stated above, Southcoast Hospital implemented its Epic EHR across all of its care sites in October 2015. At the time, hospital executives touted this implementation as a positive step for the hospital, explaining that it will help care providers access comprehensive medical records, increasing efficiency and quality of care as a result.

"Epic provides the benefit of having all of your up-to-date information available in one single record that can be accessed anywhere at Southcoast, and puts us in good company with top healthcare providers across the nation who have also chosen to go with this leading EHR system,” Hovan said in a public statement. “We know this will empower our patients to become full partners in their own healthcare – now and in the future."

"If a patient comes to the ER, his or her records from a recent physician office visit are available for the providers to view, medications or lab results will be readily available on the inpatient unit and by the primary care physician at the next office visit,” said Southcoast Hospital’s executive vice president and COO Linda Bodenmann. “The possibilities are endless and so are the benefits."

Epic EHR implementations have created significant cost burdens at other hospitals, as well. At the end of 2015, Brigham and Women’s Hospital reported far lower financial gains than they had originally anticipated. The hospital reportedly came $53 million short of the $121 million in gains it had initially expected.

Hospital president Betsy Nabel, MD, credited this in part to their Epic implementation. The hospital budgeted $47 million for its implementation, but faced $27 million in unexpected costs.

Brigham and Women’s reportedly cut 20 positions in response to these financial struggles, and eliminated 80 other open job listings available at the hospital.

Other hospitals have recently reported Epic implementation struggles, including the financial issues at the University of Arizona Health Network and the alleged misconduct at the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation during their Epic EHR implementations.

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