Hospital Competitors Share an EHR

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In the era of meaningful use, contracts for new electronic health records systems have been signed at a fast and furious pace. But a joint contract between two competitor hospitals? That qualifies as news.

That's exactly what's transpiring in a remote corner of southeastern Missouri. There, Southeast Hospital, a 280-bed facility in Cape Girardeau, and Missouri Delta Medical Center, a 162-bed hospital in nearby Sikeston, are going in on a joint inpatient EHR system. The new EHR, from Siemens, promises an integrated suite of financial and clinical modules including clinical documentation, order entry, lab, pharmacy, emergency department care and patient billing. And the technology is costing millions less than had the two hospitals bought the system independently. It's a full-bore array of applications that, if nothing else, represents a major sea change at the hospitals-both in terms of how they deliver care, and how they view each other.

"For the last five years, we saw Missouri Delta as a competitor," says Jim Limbaugh, executive vice president planning and business development at Southeast Health. "Well, we can't look at the world that way anymore. Now we look at them as partners."

Limbaugh was one of several executives playing key roles in the series of events that led to the signing of the joint Siemens contract in June 2011. That contract was the culmination of well over a year's effort. During that time, the two hospitals-which had initially begun independent searches for new EHRs-eventually realized they had plenty to gain if they could somehow pull off the search, purchase, implementation and deployment jointly. "We figured it would make sense to partner regardless of which system we use," says Limbaugh.

Gary Baldwin’s feature story in the July issue of Health Data Management explores the new relationship between Southeast Health and Missouri Delta.

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