Hospital Mergers Complicate EMR Transition

Posted on June 14, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Getting an EMR up and running in a hospital or health system is complicated enough. But managing EMR implementations in the midst of hospital mergers is even more difficult.

Like it or not, though, hospital CIOs are increasingly facing the likelihood that they’ll be facing a merger in the midst of their EMR rollout, notes a new piece in the Wall Street Journal. With reimbursements from both Medicare and private insurers falling, hospitals’ margins are growing perilously thin, and the pace of hospital mergers is likely to increase, according to a March report by Moody’s.

Right now, for example, two of New York’s biggest hospital chains — NYU Langone Medical Center and Continuum Health Partners — have agreed to discuss a possible merger. Continuum CIO Mark Moroses is in the process of moving his chain of hospitals to its GE Centricity EMR, in a move which will allow the chain to collect $20 million to $30 million in Meaningful Use incentives.

If the merger between Langone and Continuum goes through, Moroses will have to stitch together dozens of billing,  procurement and patient care systems over the next few years, the WSJ notes. But more than that, the hospital chains will have to synchronize their clinical information management, a formidable job which, as Moroses says, leaves no room for error.

It’s not just systems integration that merging systems will face, however. As the WSJ piece notes, when North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System took over Lenox Hill Hospital in 2010, the systems’s CMIO Michael Oppenheim had to bring Lenox Hill’s data to a new version of its Allscripts EMR.  The system used currently by Lenox Hill is an old one which isn’t certified for Meaningful Use.

Ultimately, hospitals’ urge to merge makes sense on a lot of levels. Given their tremendous capital costs (including EMR spending) it only makes sense to achieve economies of scale.  Unfortunately, the commonsense desire to save money and be more efficient is going to subject HIT leaders to an even rougher ride then they might have expected.