EHR: Is time your greatest enemy?

The following is my response to an article in Health Data Management regarding an article which argued that time is the enemy of a good EHR implementation. (

I agree fully with the premise of a big bang rather than a phased in approach, but for the following reasons I respectfully disagree if the reason for going all out is because there is not enough time.

Many providers have already demonstrated that time is certainly the enemy.  They have had enough time to spend four hundred million dollars and get EHR wrong, and are in the process of doing the same thing with another vendor.  There is a notable shortage of CIOs wearing EHR 2.0 T-shirts—fail once and you are done.  The attitude seems to be that there is plenty of time to do it wrong and not enough time to do it correctly.

Poor EHR implementations are creating a brand new market for HIT consultants—disaster recovery. The New England Journal of Medicine noted that more than sixty percent of EHR implementations fail.  An even higher percentage will fail to meet Meaningful Use, which is why everyone is in such a rush to implement—the Dash for the Cash.

Providers are sacrificing their own business strategy to get a check for trying to meet a set of standards that have no meaning and no benefit other than to have them fit into a more nationalized healthcare model—something they would never have done on their own.

The first question a provider should ask is “do we want to meet Meaningful Use”.  If the answer is yes, the next question they should ask is “by when?”  Given the rash of failures, providers should figure out what they need to do to avoid being the next hundred million dollar failure.  Paying to do EHR twice or to recover from a failed implementation will far exceed any funds they will have received from the EHR Rebate program.

The problem many will find is that there is no “R” in the Meaningful Use ROI calculation.  The productivity of some of the best providers in the country is still down twenty percent two years after implementation.

If providers want an ROI, they would be much better served by taking their time and doing what they need to do to make EHR do what they need it to do, and to focus their attentions on ICD-10.  The amount of money they will lose from failing to meet ICD-10 will far exceed the EHR rebate.

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