Mismanaging a healthcare IT transition: what’s the cost?

Many of our Readers may consult HIStalk on occasion, especially the provocative weekly columns by a physician known as Dr. Jayne. She has a great deal to do with HIT for her practice, was a CMIO, and her Monday Curbside Consult is about the high cost of changing EHR platforms in a healthcare organization–an event that’s happening a lot lately (think DoD and VA). It’s the story of her friend who worked in IT for a health system that migrated to a single vendor platform and practice management system. The friend was given the option to remain with the legacy platforms support team for the transition, with the employer promising that those people would move to the new platform team following the migration. Routine, correct?

Not so routine when the cutover completion resulted in two weeks notice for those perhaps two dozen people. It wasn’t about headcount, because the organization posted jobs, but all new hires are required to be certified on the new system which the transition staff were not. And this health system, a non-profit, spent half a billion dollars for an EHR migration.

What’s the cost, in Dr. Jayne’s book?

  • The health system jettisoned a group of its most experienced people, with 15-20 years experience on average, with long-standing customer relationships (customers being doctors, practices, and health facilities). The knowledge base and track record they have in handling ‘Dr. Frazzled’s high maintenance billing team’, now wrestling with a new system, walked out the door.
  • These people, due to age, may never work, or find positions at the same level, ever again–and may very well wind up in the uncompensated healthcare system.
  • The health system may, through getting rid of experienced people, evaded the hard work on its own legacy of people and process. She points out that they “treated this migration simply as a technology swap-out” versus an “opportunity for further standardization and clinical transformation”. New people can freshen an organization, but will they be allowed to, or be fitted into the same stale setup?

Dr. Jayne is optimistic about her friend finding a new position. This Editor will let her write the conclusion which applies beyond HIT in how healthcare is being managed today, from small to giant organizations:

Too often, however, that mission is keeping up with the proverbial Joneses rather than being good stewards. It reminds me of when I was in the hospital this winter, when I didn’t get scheduled medications on time due to a staffing shortage. Is it really cheaper to risk a poor outcome? When did people become less valuable of an asset than mammoth IT systems or another outpatient imaging facility or ambulatory surgery center? And do we really need another glass and marble temple to healing when the actual patient care suffers?

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