How hospital CIOs handle major mergers

With the announcement of a merger between Meridian Health and Hackensack University Health Network in New Jersey last month, the chief information officers at both organizations have a lot of work to do.

For Rebecca Weber, senior vice president and CIO at Meridian, the merger is old hat. It's a road she's been down before, she told Healthcare IT News in a recent interview.

However, because these two organizations are so large, Weber said all options need to be looked at as the merger gets underway.

"You have to ask the questions: What are the advantages? What are your pros and cons? Standardization is a great way to go, but also you can start merging your information, both financial and clinical, on a population health level," she said.

Shafiq Rab, vice president and CIO at Hackensack University Medical Center, told Healthcare IT News that the organization will be developing a common platform electronic health record to improve the overall system in each hospital.

Mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare industry are currently are at their highest level since 2010, according to a Mercom report. M&As raised $4.7 billion with 12 disclosed transactions in Q3. In Q2, that number was $2.2 billion in 12 disclosed transactions.

When it comes to challenges surrounding the merger, Rab said duplication of medical records and having the proper bandwidth and connectivity are concerns.

Weber added that a concern of hers is integrating everything into an enterprise data warehouse. There are a lot of questions that need to be addressed, she said, such as how to handle medical records. "Do you stay on different financial systems, or merge into one consolidated business office?" she asked.

However, Rab said, the most important thing is the mission and the vision of the merger.

"There is no such thing as an individual IT goal, it's always an institutional or organizational goal overall," he said.

With the increase in M&As, hospitals are coming across unexpected costs when trying to integrate computer systems. The numbers can be relatively large, with the work adding as much as 2 percent to annual operating costs during the process, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

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