EHR implementation hit Brigham and Women's bottom line

The implementation of a new electronic health record (EHR) system has hit the bottom line of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital hard.

Brigham and Women's fiscal 2015 surplus, originally estimated at $121 million, reached only $68 million, a $53 million shortfall, Stat News reported.

The hospital hired 1,500 temporary workers and budgeted an additional $47 million to help with its new EHR system going live last June, hospital spokeswoman Erin McDonough told Stat News. But the actual go-live costs approached $74 million. The hospital also reduced patient volumes during the initial weeks of the new EHR system to try and avoid any disastrous glitches.

That, along with Boston's epic snows last winter and additional payments into the employee pension fund, also cut into the hospital's bottom line.

The 1,500 temporary workers are mostly gone, but so are 20 permanent staff who were laid off, and 80 vacant positions that were also eliminated.

Stat News also reported that Southcoast Health of New Bedford, Massachusetts, spent a huge sum implementing its EHR system--$100 million in total. That led to a $30 million loss on operations in the 2014 fiscal year, although Southcoast has since returned to the black.

"What we typically see when a health system transitions to (a new EHR) is permanent, long-term improvement in financial health and increased bond ratings," Southcoast spokeswoman Erika Koch told the publication.

However, individual members of the provider community are more divided over the EHR question. Physicians, for example, still say that the costs outweigh the financial benefits, although they do say that patient care is improved as a result. However, costs often overtake benefits for at least the first three years after implementation.

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