Failed EHR project proves a cautionary tale for hospitals

A failed electronic health record system implementation at Girard Medical Center, a 25-bed facility in the southeast corner of Kansas, represents another healthcare organization lost in the weeds. Girard had an IT staff of two, neither a specialist in EHRs, when it brought in Cerner Corp. in 2010.

Now it's out $1.2 million in fees, still has no EHR system and doesn't qualify for federal monies to pay for one, as the Wall Street Journal points out. It's also enmeshed in a lawsuit against its vendor.

Girard, according to WSJ, claims that Cerner offered an all-in-one system that not only would prescribe medicines and order tests electronically, but also would provide HR functions such as tracking time and attendance. The original $2.9 million price tag for the system, however, kept going up. The attendance-tracking features, lab test functions and electronic billing wound up costing another $100,000.

After failing to come to agreement on the additional cost, Girard stopped payment and Cerner stopped work; the hospital then filed a lawsuit.

"It was incredibly complex and difficult to understand," Holly Koch, the hospital's chief financial officer, told WSJ of the contract. "We relied on [Cerner] to explain to us what the contract represented."

EHR consultant Ron Sterling wrote earlier this year that vendor contracts are becoming more one-sided and difficult. "EHR contracts contain an increasing array of complicating structures and dense terms that offer fewer and fewer commitments to your practice," he said in a blog post.

A post on the HIStalk blog addresses the story, with the author faulting the hospital for not doing "its due diligence," in addition to faulting the federal government.

"The hospital ... bought way more system than it needed or could maintain, and then tried to play tough over a price discrepancy of less than 4 percent of the total contract value," the post said. "It's not Cerner's job to advise the hospital as a neutral party. If someone deserves blame other than the hospital, it's the federal government for financially baiting providers into buying systems they otherwise had been wisely avoiding as a bad fit."

To learn more:
- read the WSJ story
- check out the comments from HIStalk (scroll down to the "Other" section)