Central Maine Healthcare CEO speaks out amid EHR woes, physician backlash

Jeff Brickman, CEO of Lewiston-based Central Maine Healthcare, said a breakdown in communication led staff at the system's three hospitals to openly oppose leadership and their decision-making, including the transition to a new EHR, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Mr. Brickman told the Bangor Daily News he knew in March conditions at CMHC had reached a critical point when staff openly resisted the systemwide EHR transition to Cerner. Mr. Brickman said that while he believed the change was necessary to recoup some of the system's financial losses and help staff more easily share patient data, some physicians saw the extra time needed to work with the EHR as an intrusion on patient care, the report states.

"With the pace of change, there was a breakdown in communications. We did not have the ability to clearly understand when [staff] were at the point where they needed help," he said.

The Portland Press Herald reported earlier this month roughly 35 (or 27.1 percent) of the system's 300 physicians left CMHC during the past fiscal year, which ended in June. Staff at all three hospitals also issued votes of no confidence in Mr. Brickman in July, citing issues with his leadership style and staffing shortages that have increased patient loads and made it more difficult for physicians to meaningfully cater to their patients. The decision to transition to Cerner only added to their burden, according to the report.

Under Mr. Brickman's leadership, the system is no longer oozing funds. He told the Bangor Daily News monthly revenue averages about $40 million, with expenses of $39.1 million during the same time frame. Those figures are why CMHC's board supported Mr. Brickman following staffs' no-confidence votes and the resignations of at least three executives during the past few months.

"[Mr. Brickman's] background of improving access to affordable, high-quality healthcare, a commitment to local care and a history of thoughtful stewarding resources to ensure continued organizational success supported our decision to select Jeff Brickman [as CEO]," CMHC Board Chair Deborah Dunlap Avasthi told the publication via email. "Jeff has introduced new strategic partnerships and recruited high-caliber talent at all levels of our organization. The board is confident Jeff and the senior leadership team at CMH will continue to move the organization forward to best meet the unique needs of our Maine communities."

Mr. Brickman said it was disheartening to see the system's fiscal troubles and staff discontent play out in the public eye, but such troubles are inevitable when rebuilding a hospital system.

"You've got legacy programs in facilities and markets and now you're moving to a new vision and model of healthcare and you have a cultural clash of the old and new. You have what we've just experienced, which is a level of concern and frustration, as we try to communicate and connect the dots while we work from moving from our insolvent base to a new one that's more sustainable for the future in a way that will meet the needs of the state of Maine," he said.

To access the full report, click here.

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