2012-12-20 HealthEast approves $135M electronic records system
HealthEast plans to spend $135 million over five years on a new electronic health record system for its St. Paul-based network of hospitals and clinics.
On Monday, Dec. 17, HealthEast’s board of directors approved the expenditure, which will put the network’s medical records on the same technology platform as most other large health care systems in the Twin Cities.
That in turn could allow for a higher degree of electronic health record sharing among regional hospitals and clinics. Such sharing could be helpful in emergencies or to prevent medication errors but would only take place with patient consent, said Mark Sonneborn, vice president of information services at the Minnesota Hospital Association.
“That’s the ultimate goal of having electronic records — that regardless of where you go, your record could be accessible,” Sonneborn said.
For HealthEast, the goal of sharing health records with other care providers in the community was only part of the reason for buying a new system, said Dr. Brian Patty, vice president and chief medical informatics officer at HealthEast.
HealthEast currently uses seven different electronic health records in different parts of its network, which includes St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood, St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul and Woodwinds Health Campus in Woodbury. As a result, HealthEast must employ a slow manual process to sync the information in its various health record systems, Patty said.
Systems’ product will integrate all health records into one system that spans hospitals, clinics, hospice and home care services at HealthEast. “We’ve got to do better than having multiple electronic records,” said Kathryn Correia, president and chief executive officer at HealthEast. “The information flows are so critical in health care.”
Patty added: “It will make us much more efficient, and allow us to spend more time … caring for the patient (rather) than caring for the patient’s record.”
HealthEast’s decision was prompted in part by a vendor’s decision to stop supporting the electronic health record software currently used in its hospitals. The phenomenon — sometimes called a “burning platform” — can be one of several drivers for hospitals and clinics to shift vendors, said Marty LaVenture, director of health information technology at the Minnesota Department of Health.
Health department statistics show that during 2011 about one-third of clinics in Minnesota and one-fourth of hospitals used an electronic health record from Epic, which was the most popular vendor in both categories. The Allina and Fairview systems, which are based in Minneapolis, as well as Bloomington-based HealthPartners, which operates Regions Hospital in St. Paul, are among those using Epic.
The Wisconsin company won’t pocket all of the $135 million spent by HealthEast over the next five years, officials said. Most of the expenditure is related to training HealthEast staff on using the new system, which is scheduled to go live in hospitals by May 2014 and in clinics about six months later.
The health system expects to hire about 40 permanent and temporary workers for the implementation. As of August, HealthEast had about 7,300 workers.
HealthEast will finance the purchase with internal and external funding, Correia said. During the fiscal year ended in August, HealthEast had earnings from operations of about $29.8 million on revenue of about $928.6 million.
Minnesota’s electronic health record exchange system allows clinics and hospitals to share patient information even when health systems are using different vendor software, said Sonneborn of the Minnesota Hospital Association. But he said caregivers can share even more data when using systems designed by the same company.