- An Oakland, CA-based public health system is facing financial collapse largely due to its $77-million investment in new electronic medical records.
- The Alameda Health System signed a contract to buy Soarian software from Siemens Healthcare in 2011, in part to capture meaningful use incentive payments. (The health system also bought technology from NextGen Healthcare.) Since then, health IT problems have cropped up regularly, most recently billing problems involving the Soarian Financials system that went live in July 2013.
- Today, the IT problems are "complicated and significant," making it difficult to collect about $50 million in billable revenue that could otherwise have been used to pay down the hospital's debt. To survive, hospital officials are asking Alameda County government to help them stay afloat by restructuring and delaying payment of a long-term debt owed to the county.
While it's not clear whether the health system has goofed or the health IT vendors sold them buggy software, things are definitely not right at Alameda Health. Not only is the Soarian financial suite making it difficult for the hospital to collect on its bills, the clinical side of the suite isn't working so well either, it appears.
Clinicians say that the clinical system is broken. "There's not a single part of the hospital—inpatient, outpatient, ER—that has fully functional [electronic health records]," one doctor told a reporter. Another issue is that lab results get posted into the new Siemens medical system. It seems unlikely that these problems will be mended quickly if the health system is out of cash.
Though they don't always get a lot of publicity, car crashes like this aren't unheard of in the EMR world. In fact, according to one vendor white paper, 73% of all EMR implementations fail, because the systems were implemented too quickly, don't offer enough clinical content in their design and cost way too much. Clearly, health systems need to change the way they evaluate and purchase EMRs if they want to be successful.