Another Instructive Hospital EMR Failure

Recently, I put out a call for people to share their stories of  EMR failures. As readers know, vendors trumpet their customers’ successes, but stories about mistakes and outright failures are hard to come by.

But this week I have one to offer, admittedly a bit in the past but still worth a look.  A LinkedIn reader just shared a story worth repeating in which a major academic medical center saw a hardcore fail of their EMR installation.  This the tale of how the University of California’s San Francisco seemingly dropped the ball during its Centricity installation.

Please note that I have no direct knowledge of what happened to UCSF during their implementation, which took place a few years ago. But according to blog Health Care Renewal , UCSF had to halt its $50 million rollout midstream, doubtless at huge cost, despite handholding from GE itself.

According to a news source quoted by the blog, insiders at UCSF were very unhappy with GE’s performance, suggesting that the giant vendor was far behind schedule in writing code.  At the time news reports were published, bigwigs at UCSF said they were evaluating their options and planned to plunge ahead in a few months.

If the news report was correct, this was more a vendor failure than an institutional problem. So what went wrong? The blog suggests that vendors like GE fail because they put management information systems grads in charge of projects, rather than those with deep medical informatics knowledge.

That being said, I find it difficult to believe that UCSF’s execs had no role in the failure. If its leaders had already committed to a $50M project, they clearly didn’t predict that GE wouldn’t be able to deliver. What’s more, my feeling is that they could have halted the project before it became a massive financial loss.  And worst of all, C-suite leaders almost certainly ignored negative staff feedback, which has to have been flowing long before the project hit the wall. (OK, that’s a SWAG, but isn’t it likely?)

Readers, do you think UCSF got its clock cleaned unfairly?  Or would you guess that leaders there ignore red flags until it was too late?  And if you were running such a project, what might you do differently?

P.S.  If you want to see some other EMR failure stories, check out this site, which is managed by blog contributor Dr. Scot Silverstein.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

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