When Done Right, EHR Implementation Is Worth Millions

EMRs have the ability to transform healthcare and give providers the ability to streamline workflow and spend more time with patients.

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Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) have the ability to transform healthcare and give providers the ability to streamline workflow and spend more time with patients. You’ve heard it all before. If you’ve read MDNG in the past, you’ve heard about it before. Years later, there are still barriers to implementing EHRs thanks to interoperability and privacy issues, but some organizations have found way to overcome this adversity and succeed, and its these organizations that give the rest of the naysayers hope.

MultiCare (http://www.multicare.org) is a “leading-edge, integrated health organization made up of four hospitals including Allenmore Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, Mary Bridge Children's Hospital and Tacoma General Hospital, numerous primary care and urgent care clinics, multi-specialty centers, Hospice and Home Health services, and many other services.” In the session I sat in on this morning, Florence Chang, Sr. Vice President and Chief Information Officer, MultiCare Health System, and Madlyn Murrey, RN MN, Vice President and Administrator, Mary Bridge Children's Hospital and Health Center explained how a strong foundation, set early on in the EHR implementation process at MultiCare's clinics, “led to a commitment to patient safety and quality care in MultiCare's hospitals, which successfully reaped the benefits of seamless, connected care.”

Chang and Murrey discussed some of the basic barriers to care and how they overcame them. First, they spoke about how important it is to have co-leadership from the top down in order to have a positive impact on the organization's implementation. Then they spoke about how important it was to select the right systems, platforms, etc and to be sure that they would be implementing technology that would be able to communicate with all the other programs and systems they would be using day-to-day. After accomplishing these two things, it was time to pull everything together. As I struggled to keep myself from slipping into a coma, Murrey hit me with one of the standard, EHR-implementation analogies. This time it was a three-legged race, and how it’s necessary to “pull together,” “stay tight,” and “find a good partner” when going through this process.

Wow, really enlightening — you really think you need good systems and cooperation from those involved to successfully implement an EHR? Please hold while I set up a press release.

But as I gathered my belonging and prepared to follow the dozen or so other people who were casually slipping out of the session, they managed to capture my attention by providing some jaw-dropping details about a barrier that is applicable to everyone but often overlooked in these sessions: cost.

Many spend the time and energy to try and implement systems and end up failing for a variety of reasons; this was not the case for MultiCare. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Let me share some of the interesting financial statistics that were provided:

$12 million in net benefit

$5 million reduction in claims

$585,000 in staff reductions in patient financial services

$20 million in improved cash collections

While I would have liked to hear more about how they compiled these numbers, one thing was evident: in order to successfully implement interoperable systems, it will require the best and brightest minds within an organization on all sides, including the clinical side. The conversation quickly went back to cliché analogies and obvious information, but maybe I missed the point. It seems to be common knowledge that large organizations like MultiCare absolutely must accomplish the goals that are explained in the bad analogies. It worked (and quite well for MultiCare), and it makes me wonder why we don’t hear more success stories like theirs. Maybe it’s time for organizations to start by implementing three-legged races and then they go from there.