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.

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