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Why Putting Capital Into EMR is a Smart Move

Rene Letourneau, for HealthLeaders Media, June 11, 2013

Maine Medical Center is not alone in its capital spending focus. In the November 2012 HealthLeaders Media Capital Funding Buzz Survey, 68% of respondents indicated that healthcare information systems (including EMR) and IT infrastructure will be a top-three priority for capital investments in the next 12–18 months, surpassing the No. 2 priority (upgrading existing facilities) by 21 percentage points.

Peter Markell, executive vice president for administration and finance, CFO, and treasurer at Partners HealthCare, a Boston-based health system with $9 billion in revenue, says his organization is also focusing its capital investment dollars on IT projects. Partners is working on the development and implementation of a new EMR that is expected to take 10 years to complete and represents a capital investment of at least $600 million–$700 million.

"More of our dollars are going toward IT and network development than we've done historically, and less is going into brick and mortar," says Markell. "Having a focus on population health management, data access, and network development has become critical to meeting the needs of patients at the right site at the right time."

Partners cut its capital spending in 2008 and 2009 because of the economic downturn but has since returned to normal spend levels. "We have weathered one set of storms. Now what we are worried about is weathering another set of storms in the form of government payments that are going to get worse and worse and be lower than costs," Markell says.

Like Maine Medical Center, Partners' decision to invest in an EMR was based on a strategic plan to improve its ability to use data to manage and improve population health, Markell says. Senior leadership believes moving in this direction will allow for better coordination of care across accountable care organizations and within the framework of new payment models.

The goals are to improve coordination, reduce duplicate tests, and decrease unnecessary treatments and procedures. Successful implementation of the EMR will enhance Partners' ability to collect, manage, and report clinical data throughout the system and will allow for a greater focus on population health management.

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