Healthcare Business News

Cleveland Clinic, Dell collaborate on EHR service

By Joseph Conn
Posted: February 24, 2014 - 2:00 pm ET

The Cleveland Clinic and information technology company Dell are teaming up to offer medical groups and hospitals across the country an electronic health-record consulting, installation, configuration and hosting service based on the clinic's version of an EHR developed by Epic Systems Corp.

The collaboration between the Cleveland Clinic and Dell's Healthcare and Life Sciences unit was scheduled to be announced Monday at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention in Orlando, Fla.

Under the arrangement, an Epic EHR can be installed and run on computers at the client's site, or hosted remotely by Dell and delivered as software as a service, affording flexibility that is one key selling point of the venture, according to the partners.

Another is the Cleveland Clinic's expertise with using and optimizing the Epic system to suit a provider's needs.

“We've been doing it for privately practicing physicians for almost 3 years,” Dr. C. Martin Harris, CIO of the Cleveland Clinic, said of its MyPractice Healthcare Solutions business, which has been extending EHRs to more than 400 providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners and midwives within a 50-mile radius of Cleveland. Data from these clinician customers has been warehoused at the Cleveland Clinic, and the practices have been billed monthly for the service. About 18 months ago, the health system also extended its EHR to a hospital about 70 miles away. Harris declined to name the hospital.

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With Dell's help, the collaborators plan to offer the EHR service nationwide, he said. The Cleveland Clinic will handle EHR installations for new customers and Dell will provide the technology infrastructure, including remote hosting, for providers choosing that option. Verona, Wis.-based Epic would be paid a licensing fee, but the relationship would be with Dell and the Cleveland Clinic.

“I think the real upside for the client is to get through a design of what they want to do much faster,” Harris said. “We can bring those different models and let them see what fits.”

Nearly 90% of hospitals and not quite 80% of office-based physicians have EHRs in place, according to federal data, suggesting a level of saturation that leaves only a narrowing market of first-time EHR buyers.

But, Harris said, that minority of practices is still a significant number, and smaller ones in particular have yet to put EHR systems in place. And, practices that already have a system may be looking to switch.

EHR developers are being challenged to upgrade their systems to meet the more stringent 2014 Edition testing and certification requirements of the federal government's EHR incentive payment program.

As a result, already many developers are running late in releasing their 2014 Edition versions, while other developers are likely to drop out of the market entirely, forcing providers who purchased their systems to either re-think their long-term IT relationships or switch soon to EHRs from different vendors.

Stage 2, Harris said, “(is) a much steeper climb and that's going to have people thinking about their operations. It presents the opportunity to have a service to help them get there.”

Federal data suggests a shakeout in the U.S. EHR market is already underway. As of mid February, the Certified Health IT Product List at HHS had 245 software developers with EHR products certified to the 2014-edition standards needed by providers to achieve Stage 2 meaningful use. That's roughly a fourth of the nearly 1,000 IT vendors with 2011-edition certified systems used by providers during the first three years of the program to achieve meaningful use at Stage 1.

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn

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