In an ever-changing world of Health Information Technology, competition between vendors is at an all-time high. With consolidation and acquisitions happening among vendors while other vendors seem to disappear from the marketplace, community healthcare facilities continue to ask themselves if they are partnering with the right company to give them the best technology solutions to meet their needs now and well into the future.
Many solution providers are quick to offer promises and guarantees to lure rural and community healthcare facilities and their decision makers away from their current vendors. When every dollar is vital to the success of your facility and community, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing the hype-filled promises of hefty returns that some companies assure will happen.
Alabama-based Gilliard Health Services (GHS) subsidiaries Jackson Medical Center and Evergreen Medical Center were both long-standing clients of Evident and their Thrive electronic health record (EHR) system. As president of GHS and chief executive officer of Evergreen Tom McLendon said, they wanted to see what else was out there. “We did a vendor search because we had been a customer for 25 years and felt like we needed to at least look and see what else was out there to be sure we weren’t being complacent or missing out on something better,” said McLendon.
Jackson and Evergreen Medical Centers are like many other community healthcare facilities that at times feel a tremendous amount of pressure and obligation to deliver the quality healthcare their friends, family and neighbors have come to rely on. With shrinking resources and increasing regulations on both the state and federal level, this can be daunting. They also face the challenge of keeping their physicians, clinicians and other employees engaged with their EHR system.
“Providing proactive healthcare for our community and managing the new quality-based reimbursement rules are just some of the challenges we faced when considering changing EHRs systems,” McLendon said. “The impact on our staff was also a consideration when looking at an EHR solution partner that we felt could meet our needs now and in the future.”
Jackson Medical Center and Evergreen Medical Center are both 35-plus bed acute care hospitals that cover a primary market of over 41,000 patients. GHS, which was formed in 1981, purchased both locations and has also owned five other hospitals since its inception.
After a cursory view of the EHR solution marketplace, GHS selected two vendors for a thorough EHR evaluation process. During the comparison, McLendon said that one vendor pulled out all the stops to showcase their product. “The ‘wow’ moment was when we visited their location,” said McLendon. “They had an impressive home site visit that showed you a lot.”
But before the new system was fully implemented at both locations, they quickly realized that many of the promises they were given were false. The assurances of a system that was superior to the functionality they currently had with Evident was not being fulfilled.
“About the time we got into the process of starting the implementation (at Evergreen), it was apparent that it was not a useable system, so we backed off at that point,” McLendon said. “In addition, pretty much everyone that was already using the system (at Jackson) was having problems with it. Every time we did a training for implementation at Evergreen, or tried gathering data at Jackson, it was just a problem all the way around.”
Not only did Jackson have a negative experience when they finished transitioning to a different EHR system, they also experienced a very real impact on hospital operations and their bottom line. According to McLendon, for the six months Jackson was not using Evident’s Thrive EHR, they experienced a 75% decline in collections, which resulted in the layoff of around 20 employees. This decrease in cash and resources significantly impacted their ability to deliver quality patient care to the community. This raised questions of how long they could keep their doors open if they remained on their current trajectory.
“When Jackson transitioned off of the Thrive system in November of 2016, we were collecting about $600-700,000 a month. Once we were live on the new EHR system, we were only collecting about $100-150,000 a month,” said McLendon. “We kept trying to make changes, work with the new HCIT partner, give it more time, but unfortunately we stayed at those low collection levels until April of 2017 which was not acceptable. This reduction was not sustainable for our facility and it posed the very real risk of having to close our hospital. We simply could not take that risk knowing the impact it would have to our employees and the community we serve. “
The cash flow experience at Jackson helped McLendon and others on the team at GHS make the decision to stop the implementation at Evergreen and terminate the contract for both medical centers. The next step was to decide which EHR system to replace it with.
After meeting with Evident leadership, McLendon said that the decision to utilize Thrive was an easy one to make. He said that the attentiveness to their needs was an important part of selecting Evident to once again be their EHR provider.
“What stood out for us was that the Evident team was concerned with understanding exactly what we needed. They also wanted us to know that their priority was to ensure our experience with Thrive would be better at meeting the unique needs of our facility,” McLendon said. “It also gave us an opportunity to expand our partnership by taking advantage of new services now available.”
Since Jackson and Evergreen had made their initial EHR purchase, the Thrive suite of products had grown, and now includes an integrated EHR solutions for hospital and providers, along with options for patient, revenue cycle, financial and information management.
“You don’t always know what you have until it’s gone,” said McLendon. “Evident demonstrated the advantages of partnering with them again. The Thrive EHR has well established products for our clinic with feature and functionality depth that was specific to rural and community healthcare.
“We also realized the importance of simply having a network of peers that used the same solution we did – who looked just like us with similar needs. We can share ideas and solutions that we’ve tried, what’s worked, what doesn’t – because we’re all in this together. Sometimes it’s just human nature to not put enough value on some of those really important things until they are gone,” McLendon said.