Sunday, April 01, 2012

University of Arizona Medical Center, $10 million in the red in operations, to spend $100M on new EHR system

In my Oct. 2006 post "$70 million for an Electronic Medical Records system?" I wrote:

... healthcare doesn’t have the capital for clinical IT misadventures, and I believe when the issues become more public in this industry sector and information flows about mismanagement and abuses (as is happening in the UK ’s Connecting for Health project) [now abandoned as described here - ed.], the fallout won’t be pretty.

Here's an example of an organization in profound ardent technophile-driven Ddulite mode:

UA Medical Center to spend $100M on new records system

Tucson's largest health-care organization expects to spend upward of $100 million on getting its two hospitals talking to each other.

Right now, the inpatient medical record systems at the University of Arizona Medical Center's two campuses aren't speaking to each other.

The lack of communication is resulting in more work for healthcare providers in the University of Arizona Health Network.

[How much more work, exactly, and how much would a non-cybernetic solution cost? These issues seem never to be mentioned - ed.]

The $1.2 billion, nonprofit company employs nearly 7,000 people.

The network is installing a new, uniform electronic medical records system for all patients at its two hospitals - UA Medical Center - University Campus and UA Medical Center - South Campus - and at outpatient centers as well.

... Project leaders predict it will result in a more efficient organization with fewer medication errors and better patient care.

... The new system's benefits will certainly trickle down to patients, said Clint Hinman, an experienced pharmacy director within the network who is directing the computer upgrade program.

[Note once again the absolutist statements of deterministic benefit and beneficence, based on scant supportive evidence and increasing contradictory evidence, that I bolded above - ed.]

I note that $100 million+ is probably enough to pay for AN ENTIRE NEW HOSPITAL or hospital wing ... or a lot of human medical records professionals.

Executives and project leaders have probably never read any of the literature at the reading list here or at my academic site here, or if they have, choose to be blind to it and trusting of literature such as ONC's sloppy-science "should not have been published in its present form" health IT cheerleading here.

Most important of all:

It's not advisable to gamble with $100 million in that fashion, especially under these conditions:


Spending $100-million-plus on electronic medical records is a lot of money for a network that as of mid-January was at $10 million in the red in operations, BUT network spokeswoman Katie Riley said the electronic medical records are not to blame.

[Capitalization and emphasis of the "but" mine - ed.]

This statement is both representative of a healthcare system gone overboard - you don't spend on luxuries when you're $10 million in the red - and is a non-sequitur.

Who cares if the EHR's are not to blame for the system being $10 million in the red? That does not seem like a good reason to go ahead and spend $100 million (which will probably balloon to several times that figure, hence I will use $100 million++) on a very risky gamble.

Further, all it will take is a few of these mishaps to put the system further in the red.

I should also ask: will medical and other staff be laid off to afford the new systems, in effect trading people for computers?

To spend $100 million++ on HIT when you're already $10 million in the red on operations is, in my view, financially reckless.

-- SS


Anonymous said...

They probably believe that with cut and paste technology from interactive EHRs, they can upcode their way out of the red.

InformaticsMD said...

Anonymous April 2, 2012 1:03:00 PM ED said...

They probably believe ... they can upcode their way out of the red.

They may be right (link).

-- SS

Live IT or live with IT said...

No worries, it's OPM dude.

IME said...

Upcoding could help, but they could get the same result out of an EHR that wasn't $100 mil. It seems like a pretty big gamble.

Brad Evans said...

Tucson Medical Center has been a poster child for health care reform efforts. Here's them and a PHO ( and them and an ACO ( I believe they are a Pioneer ACO.