University Health System—a 617-bed health system based in San Antonio—recently kicked off a systemwide electronic health record installation, scrapping its current Allscripts EHR in favor of one from Epic Systems Corp. It’s a high-priced project: between expenses such as purchasing the EHR, training personnel and retiring outdated systems, University Health is putting $170 million toward the transition.
The breadth of Epic’s client base played a central role in its decision, particularly as the academic health system’s primary partner, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, has used Epic for several years. The majority of other public health systems in Texas are also live on an Epic EHR, which University Health hopes will improve local interoperability.
“Data-sharing was a driver,” said Bill Phillips, senior vice president and chief information officer at University Health.
Despite vendors spending untold marketing dollars pitching their products’ standing on rankings produced by Black Book Research, KLAS Research and others, CIOs seem to be more driven by what’s happening in the market and good-old-fashioned peer networking.
“I’ve been in the industry for a long time, and I know a lot of the people,” said Chuck Christian, chief technology officer at Indiana-based Franciscan Health, describing one of the key steps he takes when considering a new software purchase. “So I’ll pick up the phone and call people who use the same software.”
Software purchases aren’t a decision to take lightly, as implementing a new system—such as an EHR—can involve millions of dollars. More than 90% of acute-care hospitals report being live on one or more EHRs, but hospitals often want to consolidate multiple products onto one system. That’s becoming a common case with rising rates of mergers and acquisitions.
Given the multimillion—if not multibillion—dollar stakes, it makes sense IT leaders would turn to the experiences of their peers. Nearly two-thirds of hospital executives indicate that either they or their peers have felt their job security was in jeopardy during an EHR transition, according to a seven-year survey of hospital leaders conducted by Black Book. At the manager level or above, 5% of respondents claimed they or a peer had been fired or asked to resign because of EHR replacement costs or productivity issues.
“With as much money as (new software) costs, those can be career-limiting decisions if you make the wrong one,” said Christian, who joined Franciscan Health April 8. He spoke with Modern Healthcare while at his previous role, vice president of technology at the Indiana Health Information Exchange.
Lisa Grisim, associate CIO at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Stanford Children’s Health, also highlighted the perspective she gains from the CIO community—with an electronic twist. IT leaders at Stanford Children’s have moved many of these conversations online, by participating in group email lists with their colleagues.
One of the electronic mailing lists Grisim is most active in is dedicated to CIOs at pediatric hospitals, which is coordinated through the Children’s Hospital Association.
“We’re very connected within the healthcare IT industry, particularly among specialty and high-acuity children’s hospitals,” Grisim said. “We’ll regularly send out questions about what people are doing in ERP (enterprise resource planning), PACS (picture archiving and communication system), or whatever it might be.”