Increasing EMR Scale Helps Little Guys, Improves Patient Care

Feb 16, 2017

Healthcare legislation has been pushing the implementation of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs), sometimes also referred to as Electronic Health Records (EHRs). The benefits of EMRs include greater patient access to healthcare information, error reduction, and stronger reporting capabilities for compliance audits.

HIPAA and the Affordable Care Act encourage healthcare providers to adopt EMRs by offering higher Medicare and Medicaid payouts as incentives. The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs offer $44,000 in incentives through Medicare and $63,750 through Medicaid.

As attractive as these monetary incentives may be, adoption can be challenging for smaller practices and medical centers due to the cost. Instead of implementing their own systems, smaller practices go to larger hospitals and medical centers for EMR service. When hospitals become 3rd party providers for EMRs, it can become a burden as they struggle to scale to meet the additional demand.

Barriers to EMR Adoption

While larger hospitals and medical networks can easily afford EMR implementation, small clinics and medical centers hesitate to adopt the technology, despite the risk having their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements cut. The upfront costs of acquiring EMR software can be overwhelming.

Becker’s Health IT and CIO Review shed light on the costs in 2015 by announcing Epic EHR implementations with the biggest price tags. Partners Healthcare paid $1.2 billion dollars to get their Epic EMR system up and running. EMR Implementation projects taken on by Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s University Hospital cost $200 million. Lehigh Valley’s EMR system will take 4 to 6 years to complete. St. Luke’s implementation process will require the manpower of 100 workers.

While this type of investment is validated for an organization that runs a whole network of hospitals, it is harder to justify for smaller organizations. The Medicare and Medicaid incentives don’t offset the multi-million-dollar price tags of EMR systems.

As well, these upfront costs don’t include the future fees associated with ongoing maintenance and monitoring as well as upgrades that will be needed to keep the system up-to-date. Smaller private practices also face a skills gap when it comes to running the software and the hardware needed to support the system. More money will need to be invested to train support staff, doctors, and nurses to use the system.

To help those smaller healthcare providers benefit from the use EMRs, Epic allows larger hospitals to share their Epic services with clinics and medical centers in their communities.

The Pressure to Scale EMRs

For larger healthcare organizations, money is no object for EMR implementation and the subsequent sharing with smaller clinics. However, finding additional storage space for the acquired data can be challenging. Every smaller organization that uses the EMR system creates additional data capacity needs. After a while, these additional data loads add up.

Healthcare organizations need to be able to store and process additional data quickly to make timely medical decisions. Increased network traffic can lead to bottlenecks that threaten doctors’ abilities to provide life-saving treatment in an emergency.

As they step in to help smaller clinics and medical centers, larger hospitals must find a cost-effective way of increasing storage capacity while ensuring continued EMR application performance quality.

Scale Up to Allow Partners to Scale In

The key to meeting the rising capacity and performance needs of EMRs is finding the right platform. Running EMRs in IBM POWER enables healthcare providers to scale quickly while optimizing their infrastructures.

POWER8 combines the ability to scale up and out, allowing smaller organizations to scale in. With POWER8, multiple applications can be run on a single physical server. This is ideal for EMRs like Epic that consist of a whole portfolio of software. Because of its greater storage capacity, IBM POWER8 can reduce your data center footprint by 50%. With 230 gigabytes of sustained bandwidth, you don’t need to worry about bottlenecks developing.

If your organization is struggling to scale, working with an experienced IBM partner like Peak Resources will help you decide if IBM POWER is right for you.

Do you have more questions about how to scale your EMRs? Reach out to Peak today for answers.