Knoxville Hospital and Clinics (KHC) is preparing to “go live” with its new electronic health records management system Sunday night, Oct. 13, a feat that caps years of planning and preparation.
Included in the February 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, the “stimulus” bill, was a mandate that required all hospitals to have electronic records by January 2015. This includes enrollment in the federal health information exchange. Hospitals faced penalties in the form of reduced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements if they failed comply by this deadline.
For KHC, that could be costly, as 75 percent of the hospital’s inpatients are on Medicare. The percentage for outpatients on Medicare is lower, but overall, between 60-65 percent of KHC’s patients are on Medicare or Medicaid.
Hospitals have been directed to invest in electronic records management systems. If their system meets federal criteria, some of this investment may be eligible for reimbursement.
Maggie Hamilton-Beyer, Chief Financial Officer for KHC, said the hospital began working on this project in 2010. Since then, KHC has invested $2.8 million in the project, which includes hardware and software throughout the hospital. To meet the demands for the new management system, the hospital’s information technology (IT) infrastructure required updates. Nearly every computer and server in the hospital has been replaced.
The improvements have included those to computers which serve business purposes at the hospital. Reimbursement from the government will be received for technology upgrades which specifically relate to patient care and records. Of the $2.8 million invested by KHC, Hamilton-Beyer estimates that maybe $2 million is eligible for reimbursement. No money will be received in reimbursement until the system has been in place and operational for a period of time, to demonstrate that it will work. Funds may not be received by the hospital until this time next year.
KHC’s process to meet the federal government’s demands began to accelerate in March 2012 when Thom Richards was hired as IT Director. Richards has helped navigate the 700 pages of requirements, tied to the electronic records expansion. The Ottumwa native was brought in to Knoxville from Alaska, where he assisted three other Critical Access hospitals (a designation shared by KHC), 20 clinics and a larger hospital go through the same process.