Cerner EHR off to rocky start at Banner Health in Tucson

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After spending $45 million on a new Cerner electronic health record system, Banner Health’s hospitals and clinics in Tucson, Ariz., have struggled with slow response times and delays in service with the EHR, both the provider and vendor say.

The healthcare provider—which operates two Tucson hospitals—transitioned to the system on October 1, but has faced myriad problems with both technical aspects of the system as well as communication with staff and patients.

A spokesperson for Banner Health said chief concerns involve lack of response time in accessing records and unanticipated interruptions in access.

“We have experienced slowness and delays in service as we become more proficient with the technology and associated workflows on these academic hospital campuses,” said a spokesperson for Banner Health. “We do view these issues to be temporary. At this time, we anticipate that we will require added layers of on-the-ground super user and issues resolution support through the beginning of 2018.”

Neither the healthcare system or Cerner provided any metrics that outlined the specifics of the problems being experienced by the Banner Health facilities.

The Cerner system replaced an Epic EHR that was adopted by University of Arizona Health Network (UAHN) in October 2013. Banner Health acquired UAHN in March 2015 and decided that since Banner’s existing 26 hospitals were running Cerner as their common EHR platform that the other facilities in Arizona should follow suit, including Banner-University Medical Center Tucson and Banner-University Medical Center South.

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According to Banner Health executives, planning for the transition from Epic to Cerner began a year in advance; the $45 million price tag for the installation included licensing, equipment and training. Nonetheless, they say their organization has faced challenges in transitioning to the new system, still encountered problems adjusting to the new system, particularly in adjusting to new workflows and processes related in the shift to Cerner from Epic.

“We are collaborating with Banner Health to understand the concerns that were noted at the University of Arizona-Tucson and are developing plans to address as needed,” said Cerner in a written statement. “Like many large-scale implementations, there are new workflows and new processes. We are confident the users in Tucson will join their colleagues across Banner Health in leveraging the new EHR for quality and efficient patient care.”

Banner Health is taking a number of actions to address the problems with Cerner system, including:

  • Continued technical and workflow support from both on-site as well as skilled resources from other Banner locations.
  • Enhanced communication and reporting channels to identify and resolve issues for staff and physicians.
  • System and functionality enhancements, which neither Banner or Cerner specified, where needed to streamline workflow.

In addition, Banner Health said it is working with the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) which is investigating complaints about the Cerner EHR, and response and access issues related to the implementation. Neither Banner, Cerner or ADHS officials provided specifics about the nature of the complaints or who filed them.

“We have committed to working with them in full transparency and we are including them in our transition, communication and issue resolution processes,” said a Banner spokesperson. “ADHS is well apprised of the scale of this kind of installation, and also of the patient care value of reaching our goal of a fully integrated EMR across all of Banner’s campuses.”

For its part, ADHS said it is unable to comment on pending or open investigations.

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