- Failure would likely result from a hasty EHR integration effort, warned Kevin Tabb, president and CEO of Beth Israel (BI) Lahey Health, which was recently formed from the merger of Beth Israel Deaconess and Lahey Health.
The merged organization has a “multitude” of different EHR systems. There is a homegrown system at the Longwood medical center; there is Epic at Lahey, its community hospitals, and Mt. Auburn hospital; and there is Meditech at BI’s community hospitals, Tabb told the Boston Business Journal in a recent interview.
“In the short term – and I mean in the year or two post integration – if you wanted to choose the single worst time to rip everything out and implement one system, if you wanted to guarantee there would be failure, you would do it the year you are also merging disparate cultures,” Tabb judged.
“We could, but I think that would go up in flames. I think that would be a big mistake. And in the short term we will need to build and we’ve done some of this interoperability between systems,” he added.
The merger creates a 13-hospital system, which includes four academic and teaching hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical School and Tufts University School of Medicine, eight community hospitals, specialty hospitals for orthopedics and behavioral health, and ambulatory and urgent care centers.
The combined system employs more than 800 primary care physicians and 3,500 specialty physicians, with a total of 35,000 employees.
Tabb said he wants to eventually move to one EHR system in order to provide a comprehensive system of care to patients. “Therefore, it was always my belief and is still my belief that in the intermediate to long term, we will need to standardize on a system. But when and which one, I can’t tell you yet. But I believe ultimately that will need to happen,” he told the Boston Business Journal.
In announcing the merger finalization, Tabb said that creation of BI Lahey Health provides “unprecedented opportunity to care for our patients and our communities in new and better ways. This is just the beginning of our journey to transform health care in Massachusetts into what we know it can and should be.”
“We believe everyone should have access to high-quality, affordable care, whether they live on Cape Cod, the North Shore or somewhere in between. Through local and system partnerships, as well as the enthusiasm and talent of all our employees and providers, we will invest in and strengthen community-based care, informed by innovation and discovery,” Tabb added.
Ann Ellen Hornidge, chair of the board of BI Lahey Health, commented: “Each of the organizations joining Beth Israel Lahey Health brings a strong legacy and unique expertise to this new system. In coming together, we embrace our individual strengths and commit to working together to make a difference for our patients and our communities by expanding access to reimagine the future of health care in Massachusetts.”
Last November, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey approved the merger with certain conditions. These include a seven-year price cap, MassHealth participation, and $71.6 million in financial commitments to support healthcare services for low income and underserved communities.
Under the seven-year price cap, the merged organization has agreed to keep its price increases below the state’s healthcare cost growth benchmark, which is currently set at 3.1 percent annual growth.
BI Leahy Health also agreed to make good faith efforts to enroll all licensed providers in MassHealth within three years.
The $71.6 million in financial commitments include $41 million to fund and support affiliated community health centers and safety net hospitals, at least $8.8 million in additional support for affiliated community health centers and safety net hospitals, at least $5 million to expand access to healthcare for communities of color and low-income communities, and at least $16.9 million to develop and expand comprehensive behavioral health services to enhance access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment.
“These enforceable conditions, combined with rigorous monitoring and public reporting, create the right incentives to keep care in community settings and ensure all our residents can access the high-quality healthcare they deserve,” concluded Healy.