Epic installation proves more expensive

MaineHealth to invest an extra $55M for already-costly system
By Mike Miliard
11:07 AM

Bringing the total cost to $200 million, the parent company of Maine Medical Center will be spending tens of millions more on training for its problematic Epic electronic health record implementation.

This summer, we reported on the financial woes at Maine's largest hospital, whose rollout of an Epic EHR had not gone as planned. Maine Medical Center, part of the MaineHealth network, had already spent more than $145 million on the system, but several months into the project, problems cropped up – mostly related to charge capture.

[See also: Go-live gone wrong.]

In a letter obtained in May by Healthcare IT News, Maine Med's President and CEO Richard W. Peterson revealed that, thanks to those billing issues, as well as declining patient volumes, the hospital had sustained a $13.4 million operating loss over the first half of its fiscal year.

Due to "a negative financial position that it has not witnessed in recent memory," as Peterson wrote, the hospital instituted a hiring and travel freeze, and the expansion of the Epic system to other MaineHealth facilities was put on hold.

[See also: EHR part of MaineHealth's financial woes.]

"This is being done to concentrate and focus our information systems resources to finding solutions to our revenue capture issues," Petersen wrote.

On Dec. 24, The Portland Press Herald reported that MaineHealth will now be spending $55 million more on the Epic system, mostly for staff training.

MaineHealth President Bill Caron told the paper that the Epic implementation would proceed at MaineHealth's dozen-plus hospitals through 2017.

In retrospect, though, he admitted that the health system's plans may have been overambitious. He said MaineHealth had underestimated the resources needed to train users, and suggested it may have been more prudent to start with a pilot project and build out, rather than launching Epic at Maine Medical Center, MaineHealth's 6,000-employee flagship hospital

Most of this new $55 million will go toward staff training, Caron told the Press Herald; about one-third of the expenditure is related to a broader implementation throughout MaineHealth.

"It’s a good investment once you get it right," he said.

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