Wake Forest Baptist's transition to EHR causes financial hit

Yet another provider is facing unanticipated struggles with electronic health record system adoption. Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is blaming additional costs and lost revenue on the 2012 implementation of its Epic EHR, according to an article in the Winston-Salem Journal.

Wake Forest Baptist, in its second quarter financial report submitted to bond agencies, reported spending roughly $13.3 million directly on its EHR system, plus another $8 million on "other Epic-related expenses"; according to the Journal, the hospital claims it suffered "business-cycle disruption that had greater than anticipated impact on volumes and productivity." It experienced $26.6 million in lost margins due to interim volume disruptions during both its initial go-live and post go-live phases.

Wake Forest Baptist also reported that its operating room cases were down 4.1 percent, in part because surgeons needed time to train and adjust to the new EHR system.

The medical center currently is working on improving productivity, and has eliminated 950 job positions. 

Wake Forest's situation certainly is not unique, with other providers reporting difficulties and lower productivity as they've implemented EHR systems. No one EHR vendor received the highest rating in EHR usability in a recent report published by Orem, Utah-based research firm KLAS, although Epic scored the highest, with a 4 on a scale of 1 to 5. 

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT reported last month that 44.4 percent of acute care hospitals have implemented at least a "basic" EHR system, more than triple the adoption rate in 2009. The reimbursement penalties for not adopting EHRs and achieving Meaningful Use kick in in 2015. 

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