Mergers and acquisitions not leading to promised EHR integration

Improved information-sharing through electronic health record integration is often cited as a benefit of hospital mergers, but a new analysis published on the Health Affairs Blog suggests that sales pitch should be met with “healthy skepticism.”

The study by Harvard Business School doctoral student A. Jay Holmgren and renowned healthcare IT researcher Julia Adler-Milstein, which used data from 4,720 hospitals from the American Hospital Association survey and IT Supplement from 2012 to 2016, finds that only one-third of hospitals acquired in that period switched to the dominant vendor of their acquiring system, while 44 percent remained on a different EHR system.

Furthermore, the analysis shows how hospital consolidation is contributing to EHR vendor consolidation. Most hospitals that did switch vendors after being acquired by another system did so to Epic or Cerner.

We know mergers keep happening – and few are living up to their promises. With this “new national assessment of the relationship between hospital consolidation and EHR vendor switching” stakeholders can get a clearer picture of one area where mergers and acquisitions are falling short and don’t always gain the hoped-for operational efficiencies.

“Our results suggest that one important avenue by which consolidation may result in lower-cost, higher-quality care is not routinely occurring,” said Holmgren and Adler-Milstein. “This should be cause for continued concern that many acquired hospitals may not deliver on their promised benefits. As policy makers and regulators consider how much additional horizontal consolidation in the hospital industry to allow, claims of EHR system integration as a method to deliver benefits should be taken with healthy skepticism.”

Deirdre Fulton is communications professional and freelancer based in Maine.
On Twitter: @deirdrefulton

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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