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Too often, it seems, we’re told that “no good deed will go unpunished!” For hospital electronic health records (EHRs) and Information Technology (IT) this appears to be the rule. In a recent incarnation, Lutheran Health Network (LHN) has—without fault we believe—been the victim.

What was intended: We’ve commended LHN for upgrading at a $100 million cost, to a complete new EHR from the Cerner Company. As part of this upgrade, new switches for computers and other IT needed to be installed while the system was temporarily shut down. When completed, groundwork would have provided for installation of Cerner’s system for the entire Lutheran network. It was carefully planned to be done at night.

What happened: At the various hospitals, doctors, nurses and staff were stationed in each department to cover for the lack of computer access. When the core switches were installed and programs readied and checklist completed, it was nearly 4:30 AM. And quite likely through a conflict with a vendor upgrade, the process was not completed, and everything reverted to the previous system. It will need be done again. No one was hurt, lots of schedules were disrupted and lots of personnel were up all night—some working double shifts the next day.

What it means: We checked with many sources in and out of LHN and are confident that LHN is merely a victim of hospital IT today. It is more than likely that next time it will work as planned. But criticism is due. Not to CHS and not to LHN but to the entire hospital software industry. We have previously stated that a Detroit hospital paid over $350 million for a new EHR. Cost overruns are endemic in the industry; Stanford Hospital’s overrun was reported to be $80 million. And clinically, nurses and physicians have been highly critical of the amount of time required to use hospital software, saying that it is more designed to provide codes for billing and that it takes away far too much time away from patient care. Comparisons should not be between companies that design software for hospitals, but instead against software used by millions of untrained people—that of Amazon, Google or Facebook for example.

Artificial intelligence allows Amazon to predict one’s shopping habits. Facebook can recognize your links with friends. Google maps can update your travel route on the fly, proposing changes when it recognizes traffic problems or route closures. The software on one’s tiny iPhone is superior to navigation software on automobiles. These companies can update software information daily, continually “on the secure network cloud.” The sophisticated Amazon Web Services Cloud (AWS) allows buyers to choose from menus of optional services, allowing users to avoid managing computer servers and thus not suffering those features of upgrades that inconvenienced LHN.

An IT solution has long been proposed by the controversial billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, surgeon and entrepreneur.
Dr. Soon-Shiong is a believer in “cloud” IT and also in using genetic science in medicine. NICHE will be interested in watching his recent purchase of several hospitals in which he can demonstrate cloud technology, one hopes, to avoid current difficulties with EHR use and upgrades. Until then, we appreciate the costs that both of our local hospitals have paid in seeking better care, and we will watch the controversial Dr. Soon-Shiong.…/can-patrick-soon-shiong-silence-…/