IT blamed in Athens EHR debacle
June 17, 2014 in Medical Technology
Who’s to blame when EHR implementations go south? There’s often enough fault to go around. But when the fallout is bad enough, sometimes self-interested parties are all too ready to point fingers.
[See also: CEO resigns amid troubled EHR rollout]
In late May, we covered the story of a $31 million Cerner rollout at Athens Regional Health System in Georgia that didn’t go as planned.
Thanks to what was described by clinicians as a rushed process, doctors nurses and staff were up in arms about a series of medication mistakes, scheduling snafus and other communication glitches.
[See also: IT and informatics play well together]
“The last three weeks have been very challenging for our physicians, nurses and staff,” wrote Athens Regional Foundation Vice President Tammy Gilland, Athens Regional Foundation vice president, in a letter to donors explaining the situation. “Parts of the system are working well while others are not.”
The complaints lodged by clinicians were soon followed by the resignation of President and CEO James Thaw and, less than a week later, Senior Vice President and CIO Gretchen Tegethoff.
This past weekend, on June 15, the Athens Banner Herald reported that Athens Regional’s chief medical officer – as well as executives from Cerner – were pointing fingers at the health system’s IT team, complaining that they made strategic decisions that should have been the bailiwick of clinicians.
“Could there have been more information shared at the administrative level? I suppose you could make that argument,” Senior Vice President and CMO James L. Moore told the paper. “The implementation was through the CIO, and so that’s where the information was held.”
The Banner Herald‘s Kelsey Cochran also quotes a Cerner vice president, Michael Robin, who noted that while some end-users were involved in the rollout, it seemed primarily to be led by Athens Regional’s IT team, which he said was “atypical” of Cerner sites.
Another Cerner VP, Ben Hilmes, told the paper that successful EHR implementations are “clinically driven, not IT-driven.” At Athens Regional, he added, “it came out of balance toward the IT side of things.”
Moore has since taken the lead on the project. Cerner has pledged to do “whatever we need to do” to help the process get back on track, Hilmes told Cochran.
Whether or not this is a matter of three different parties – IT, clinicians, vendors – circling the wagons around their own and casting blame on others, one thing is certainly true: On big projects like these, the technology side and the clinical side need to be committed and communicative partners from the get-go.