Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston just posted its first budget loss this century.  Lahey Health, another Massachusetts hospital network,
lost $21M this year. Both are listed as being among this year’s biggest spenders on EPIC as their new electronic health record system. Coincidence?

There’s no argument that EHR implementation can be costly. But is it the millions in annual licensing fees and the hundreds of consultants and IT man-hours that are necessary to “go live” causing these shortfalls, or should the blame be placed on a different budget line?

Diagnosis codes under the Affordable Care Act expanded from 13,000 to 70,000 in the last two years and that’s caused a decrease in earnings as charges are either denied or insurance reimbursement payments to hospitals are delayed due to mistakes in the coding process.  It’s much more complicated than this of course but could the cause of these losses be attributed to deficiencies in employee training and burdensome federal mandates?

Reports of “epic-sized” cost overruns related to EHR conversion are commonplace these days, and some are deserved, but maybe the root of the problem (and the line item losses) should fall outside of IT and focus on the “people” aspect of the story. New systems are only as good as the humans who run them. Perhaps a greater investment in training and communications could go a long way towards limiting the financial damage (and putting the budget blame where it’s deserved).