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Because one EHR is better than two

by John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent | February 23, 2018
Health IT
From the January/February issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Back in the ‘80s or ‘90s, IT systems ran about 2.5 percent of the operating cost of a hospital, but HIMSS data has shown that as you automate clinical workflow, and the cost of software and the cost of the labor to keep the software up to date, a highly automated hospital system now runs 4 to 6 percent.

It is an improvement in quality, value and patient convenience, but it's contributing to the increasing cost of health care. The irony, of course, nothing scales better than information technology. You see that in the large systems – Kaiser, Sutter and HCA. They're not spending that high a percentage.

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HCB News: How does the shared EHR impact patients and the way the hospitals address population health?

CL: The challenge is always to aggregate data across multiple platforms. That is an unsolved problem and always takes more time and effort than people anticipate. So the opportunity to have multiple health systems on a single integrated platform is a big win.

From a population wellness standpoint, it allows the possibility to extend our care across a larger continuum. Our CEO’s cooperation is paramount to allowing that to happen. For example, there are best practices both sites have been developing for years that we can now easily share – ranging from admission to cancer protocols. We're getting the best of both worlds.

The implementation was faster than normal, according to Epic, with UC Irvine coming online in just 17 months. In general, academic medical centers average about a two-year period. Chuck was able to get this done in 17 months, so that helped hold the expense down. Doing this in 17 months also required a lot of governance input.

HCB News: Is it possible that these benefits could be leveraged on a larger scale one day, perhaps across more University of California academic hospitals?

CL: There are no current plans to do so, but there’s clearly more opportunity surrounding affiliated hospitals. The smaller hospitals – especially safety net and critical hospitals – are struggling with IT because they can’t afford the same costs the larger medical centers can. I think that's where we'll see some opportunity. For example, UC Davis is now hosting Marshall Medical Center in Placerville, Calif. They just went live in November.

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