HCA Gets HITECH Bonuses — And Goody For Them! — But Will EHR Really Help?

When it comes to raking in the Meaningful Use bucks, HCA had a pretty good year. According to its recent conference call, HCA hospitals took in $120 million in incentive income during its fourth quarter, balanced against about $19 million in expenses. For 2011, it spent $77 million to take in EHR incentive income of $210 million. Sounds pretty sweet.

HCA’s nice margin on EMR adoption may be in part because it has gone with relatively small (and arguably, less costly) vendor eClinicalWorks rather one of the big iron giants like Cerner or Epic.  Regardless, something is working.

Still, HCA clearly can’t live on incentives alone. For this past quarter, cash flows shot up from $534 million during the previous quarter in 2010 to $1.387 billion during the 4th quarter of 2011. And it expects to see equivalent admission growth to range from 7 percent to 8 percent for the year, a nice bump if I do say so myself; what’s more, net revenue per equivalent admission growth should climb 3 percent to 3.5 percent.

In case all of this is making you yawn, let me bottom line it: HCA seems to be set up for a good year, and EMR adoption incentives aren’t likely to make a giant impact given the cost of putting the systems in place.

Given its size and scope, HCA offers a nice model for looking at how effective an EMR can be in doing more than fulfilling a government mandate and collecting prize money.  HCA CEO and chairman Richard Bracken calls the company’s EMR “an important foundational step in our ability to create a clinical data set to assist in the provision of more cost efficient and effective healthcare services.”

But this, obviously, is a seriously slippery collection of buzzwords. Mr. Bracken, could you be more specific?  Wall Street may not care but we do.

For the record, I saw an eClinicalWorks demo at a recent trade show and man, I was truly unimpressed. Not only was the user interface ugly and hard to use, the sales beings at the booth seemed determined to blow off a single doctor brave enough to ask a question about how to use his product on her job. Not an appealing picture.

So, what can eClinicalWorks actually do to improve clinical care or even move HCA hospitals beyond Meaningful Use stage 1?  You’ve got me, buddy.

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.

1 Comment

  • All excellent comments. Need to check into NoteSwift. It’s designed to address the physician experience – enabling discrete data entry via simple voice navigation (w/ Dragon Medical).

    I point it out because it addresses the single biggest issue w/ EHR adoption by the physicians. Having to morph to the sytem, rather than the system morphing to their existing workflow (and comfort zone).

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