EHR Project Loses U.K. Hospital 18 Million Pounds

Royal Berkshire Foundation Trust's implementation of Cerner Millennium electronic health record system is costly to maintain and hard to use, causing patient backlogs.

Gary Flood, Contributor

June 20, 2013

2 Min Read

9 Mobile EHRs Compete For Doctors' Attention

9 Mobile EHRs Compete For Doctors' Attention

9 Mobile EHRs Compete For Doctors' Attention(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

A British hospital's attempt to implement an electronic health record (EHR) system has been so disastrous that it has had to write off £18 million ($28 million).

Although The Royal Berkshire Foundation Trust in Reading so far has spent £28.5 million ($44 million) rolling out the Cerner Millennium EHR, external auditors have calculated the investment as amounting to only £10.5 million ($16.2 million).

Berkshire is one of the largest general hospital foundation trusts in the country. The software originally was envisioned as the ideal way to match information on patients to the right surgeons, beds and treatment appointment times, as well as helping staff retrieve and share patient details efficiently. But problems and delays with the system, aggravated by disputes over the hosting of the software with services firm CSC, mean that even after a delayed go-live of June last year, staff and patients alike are disenchanted with it.

[ Can industry guidelines make EHR's more usable? Read EHR Association Launches Developer Code Of Conduct. ]

The implementation is "plagued with problems," with it taking up to 15 minutes for staff to navigate their way through multiple screens to book routine appointments, causing severe patient backlogs, according to the local newspaper.

Keeping the EHR up and running has been a drain on the hospital's budget, with the £2.5 million ($3.9 million) set aside last year ending up almost twice as much, £4.9 million ($7.8 million), and the budget for this year already estimated to climb further, to £5.1 million ($7.9 million).

"Unfortunately, implementing the [EHR] system has at times been a difficult process and we acknowledge that we did not fully appreciate the challenges and resources required in a number of areas," said the hospital's chief executive, Ed Donald.

A campaign against public sector waste in Britain, The Taxpayer's Alliance, has seized on the hobbled project as an especially egregious example of bad procurement. "[NHS] trusts must work a lot harder to get a good deal for the taxpayers footing the bill," it warned.

The row comes in the same week British Parliament members expressed frustration that the funding scheme that supported other British hospitals' investment in EHRs, the controversial £9.8 billion ($15.2 billion) National Program for IT, cancelled in 2011, continues to cost the country millions, with contracts in some cases not set to expire for 12 more years.

Berkshire, however, opted out of that program in 2008 and had instead linked with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to help it implement Millennium.

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