Why we switched to McKesson

Part 3 of a series exploring providers' decisions to change EHR vendors.

When Joe Freudenberger became CEO of OakBend Medical Center in 2007, the hospital was running the Meditech MAGIC platform without an EHR, and it did not provide many of the functionalities the organization needed.

"It was not adequate from a clinical standpoint, it wasn't supporting our quality initiatives," says Mr. Freudenberger.

The Richmond, Texas-based organization also found itself in a highly competitive market in which many other local hospitals had advanced IT systems. "We were being asked why we didn't have an EMR, too," says Mr. Freudenberger, who felt the lack of a more sophisticated system was hurting the hospital's ability to attract talented doctors and clinical staff.

It was quickly decided the organization needed an EHR. When the search began, for Mr. Freudenberger, the most important consideration was not the actual technology but the hospital's working relationship with the vendor. "I don't believe that any product you buy... will be the same product you're using in three or five years subsequently," he says. "That's why you have to partner with vendors that support the organization, that can align with your current and future needs."

When Mr. Freudenberger and Tim McCarty, the hospital's IT director, began to consider vendors, they only looked at those that had a product and price point suitable for the smaller, independent hospital. The decision came down to Siemens, Cerner, McKesson and Meditech, though it was McKesson's leadership team that won Mr. Freudenberger over.

"In my opinion, McKesson had functionality that was about matched with their competitors, but I felt their leadership team was very attuned to our needs as an independent hospital in this competitive environment," he says. "I knew improvements would be made in a collaborative manner, meaning they would listen to folks like me and say, ''Hey, what can we do to make this better for you?'"

Once the selection was made, McKesson helped execute a somewhat unusual implementation process at OakBend Medical Center — the head of each department, rather than IT, oversaw the implementation of the EHR in their department. "[The department heads] found the staff to do the build, they developed their own superusers, and then in coordination with McKesson provided the training and guidance to the staff members to get the job done," says Mr. Freudenberger.

The approach achieved its goals of fostering rapid EHR adoption and ensuring smooth workflow transitions. After the on-time go-live, hospital was ready to staff a help desk around-the-clock for the first week to handle any EHR-related issues. After a day and a half, hospital officials realized help desk hours could be reduced to 7:00a.m. to 11:00p.m.; in four days staffers were just there during normal business hours and are now on-call only.

"The collaboration with McKesson has been great," says Mr. Freudenberger. "They said we had the most successful go-live they've ever had."

For other smaller or independent hospitals considering an EHR replacement, Mr. Freudenberger advises looking beyond the systems being used by larger neighboring systems. "There's a movement right now where smaller hospitals are piggybacking on bigger systems' [EHRs], and I worry about that because big hospitals have a different set of needs and it may not be as effective," he says. "It's so important to choose a vendor that is aligned with the needs of the organization... If you choose a vendor that focuses on large teaching hospitals and you're not a large teaching hospital, I'm not convinced it will work."

More articles on EHRs:

58 stakeholder groups lobby lawmakers to clarify health IT regulation
KLAS: Less than half of providers think their EHR is interoperable
Primary care clinics can recover EHR investments in 10 months, finds study

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