Health IT Pulse

Jun 20 2014   12:40PM GMT

2014 so far a bumpy stretch for Cerner Corp.

Shaun Sutner Shaun Sutner Profile: Shaun Sutner

EHR implementation
EHR systems

These have been turbulent times for Cerner Corp.

The Kansas City-based health IT monolith’s latest predicament unfolded behind closed doors when Ventura County, California grand jurors found that Cerner knew the county health care agency was incapable of installing the company’s EHR system, which cost $32 million for that implementation.

Also in May, a $31 million Cerner implementation at the Athens Regional Health System in Georgia turned into a fiasco, with reports of botched orders, medication mistakes and patient care problems — triggering the forced departures of CEO and president James Thaw as well as senior vice-president and CIO Gretchen Tegethoff, who has been a great friend of SearchHealthIT over the years and a pillar of leadership for the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.

On top of all that, Cerner is still in court-ordered arbitration in Kansas after a small rural hospital system sued the company in U.S. District Court after an attempted 2010 install, claiming Cerner ratcheted up charges and eventually dropped the project, leaving Girard Medical Center with no EHR system. See The Wall Street Journal story about it.

And when CMS recently released meaningful use stage 2 attestation numbers broken out by vendor, Cerner was nowhere to be found in the eligible provider rankings.

To be fair, the company — widely recognized as number two in the industry after Epic Systems Corp. — emerged atop a small group of companies that attested to Stage 2 in hospital settings, with 27 attestations. Compared to smaller competitor athenahealth Inc.’s 287 attestations in the EP arena, that feat combined with the woeful anecdotes recounted here may raise some concerns about how well Cerner’s customers can navigate stage 2, which Cerner says some customers are taking on during this second quarter. .

Also, the nearly $1 billion company’s financial fortunes are still ascending, with a succession of sparkling quarters and years. The NASDAQ-traded stock has soared from just over $14 a share five years ago to an all-time high of $62 in February, though it has since retreated a bit and has been trading recently around $52.

Kansas City lawyer Frankie Forbes, a healthcare law specialist who handled the original Girard lawsuit, summed up Cerner’s alleged modus operandi with the rural hospital system this way.

“There was a disconnect between their sales and implementation,” Forbes said.

Asked to comment on the company’s recent troubles, Cerner spokeswoman Kate Rauber said in an emailed statement:

“Adopting health care IT places significant change management demands on providers. Change of this nature requires time and often involves altering processes that have been in place for decades or more. Cerner is committed to helping our clients achieve long-term success in a challenging health care landscape.”

In California,”The Grand Jury found that the selected bidder, the Cerner Corporation (Cerner) of  Kansas City, MO, upon implementing the new system, recognized that VCHCA’s technology needs exceeded those requested and sufficient resources were underestimated,” according to the transcript released in May.

Grand jurors also found that, starting with the authorization of the Cerner contract in 2011, the project lacked a dedicated and experienced project manager and was significantly understaffed; staff training on the new software was insufficient; and the county medical system ordered necessary hardware too late to properly configure the system for users.

In his response to the grand jury report, the county health system director said the report was inaccurate and outdated because it did not look at improvements made since July 2013, California Healthline reported.

2  Comments on this Post

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  • Stank12
    I find it funny that this " 3rd rate tech pub" posts a rambling article on Cerner like they are stock pickers. Take this trash down.
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  • stank1
    Thank you for the honest truth and references to support it Shaun.  The behavior of Cerner against Girard Medical Center, the age old David and Goliath story, is embarassing and telling.  This is especially poor form given the proximity of Girard Medical Center to the Cerner Worldwide Headquarters.  Lastly, in my opinion, the comment by Stank12 is more evidence supporting that Cerner is just another bully.  Have some dignity and class.
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