Runaway Train

July 31, 2014 by By InTouch Health

There are plenty of ways to squander millions of dollars. Making a movie of “Hamlet” starring Vin Diesel is one. Launching a new search engine to compete with Google is another.

But nothing is sadder than the spectacle of a healthcare system blowing millions of dollars on an Electronic Health Record or other technology venture without getting input from clinicians. When these projects get turned over solely to hospital IT people, it’s a runaway train of quality nightmares and cost overruns.

Take, for example, the case of Athens Regional Medical Center in Georgia, which partnered with Cerner (one of the biggest and best EHR vendors in the business). Both Cerner and hospital physicians complained that there wasn’t enough upfront clinical guidance, but hospital leadership didn’t hesitate in handing the reins to the IT staff.

How bad did things get? A recent news story from The Advisory Board chronicled some of the mishaps, including numerous medication errors and one admitted patient who didn’t see a physician for five days.

As the multimillion dollar fiasco continued, both the hospital CEO and CIO got axed. Now, with Cerner’s help, the hospital is starting over and getting plenty of physician help. This underscores a basic truth in healthcare technology: most projects require comprehensive planning and are the shared responsibility of clinicians, hospital operations, and the IT staff. A “go it alone” strategy usually backfires.

What happened at Athens should be a wake-up call for healthcare systems that are considering “homegrown” telemedicine programs. Letting the IT staff make an investment in videoconferencing carts is not a telemedicine program, which requires just as much planning and clinical input as an EHR.

When IT plays the role of conductor – and clinicians are left in the caboose – there’s no stopping that train until something bad happens.