Baptist Health System in Birmingham, Ala., is scuttling a nearly 3-year-old agreement with Siemens Medical Solutions to use and help develop the information technology vendor's newest-generation Soarian clinical IT system.
"Given the substantial investment, resources and time commitment required to participate as a Soarian early adopter, BHS, in collaboration with Siemens, has decided to halt implementation," the hospital said in a terse news release about the decision. Instead, BHS will stick with and further implement Siemens' older Invision system "to free resources and to focus on more immediate initiatives critical to operations."
BHS spokeswoman Susan Moore said the hospital would not comment further.
LuAnn Smith, manager for public relations at Malvern, Pa.-based Siemens, said in an e-mail following a request for a response that "we'll leave it to the customer to comment on their plans for installation of Siemens products."
In October 2001, BHS announced with fanfare its partnership with Siemens as an "early adopter" of the tech giant's new Soarian clinical information technology. The healthcare system at the time was a user of several of Siemens' Invision system modules.
The new system was to afford BHS electronic imaging archive and retrieval, computerized physician order entry, electronic medical records and patient tracking. Charles Jones, then chief information officer of BHS, said Soarian would enable BHS to "take the next step toward instantaneous transmission of information across our health system."
Since then, however, the road to an IT upgrade -- and to administrative peace -- has become a minefield.
In June 2003, the board of the 10-hospital, not-for-profit system voted to merge with for-profit Triad Hospitals of Plano, Texas. The system's CEO, Dennis Hall, had said the merger was needed to pay for a $70 million capital improvement plan, including the IT upgrade. (See story on ModernHealthcare.com; registration required.)
In less than a month, prompted by a physician-led revolt, the board voted to halt the merger and ousted Hall. Five of 21 board members, including chairman Bobby Keith, Jr., a Hall backer, resigned.
Michael Drummond, M.D., a Birmingham vascular surgeon and an opponent of the merger, replaced Keith as board chairman, and Beth O'Brien took over as CEO in December 2003. The board has been trimmed to 10 members. Drummond left the board in March as BHS announced plans to sell two hospitals -- 148-bed Baptist Coosa Valley in Sylacauga, Ala., and 60-bed Baptist Cherokee in Centre, Ala. -- and let lapse its lease on a 98-bed county-owned facility in Moulton, Ala.
Also in March, O'Brien announced she was bringing in turnaround advisors Navigant Consulting's The Hunter Group.
Meanwhile, consultant Joshua Nemzoff of New Hope, Pa., who last year had come up with a turnaround plan for the system, filed a $4 million federal breach of contract suit against BHS in April.
Drummond could not be reached for comment by deadline, but Nemzoff, despite the suit, said O'Brien made "a very wise decision" to scale back on the IT system.
"As the chairman (Drummond) once put it, we needed a Chevy and we got a Rolls Royce," Nemzoff said. "It was a very sophisticated system."