Texas County Memorial Hospital board members voted unanimously at their meeting last week to approve $88,063 for a software and hardware upgrade for the electronic medical records system in the TCMH clinics.

The funds were not part of the TCMH 2011 capital budget, but they are necessary if the clinics are to achieve “Stage 1, Meaningful Use” criteria set by the federal government. TCMH began implementing EMR in the hospital-owned clinics in 2007, choosing a General Electric system called “Centricity.”

“The version of Centricity that we bought was not submitted to the federal government for approval under ‘meaningful use’ because GE was developing new versions of the software that they wanted everyone to purchase,” explained Wes Murray, TCMH chief executive officer.

Murray admitted that his frustration with the decision by GE, and he said that more than 3,200 healthcare facilities currently find themselves in the same situation with GE as they work toward meeting the government requirements.

“Everything we are using our current version of Centricity to do meets the government requirements for meaningful use,” said Dr. Charlie Rasmussen, family medicine physician at the TCMH Medical Complex in Houston and vice chief of staff.

Rasmussen expressed his frustration with an EMR program that he once considered “great.”

“The only thing that’s missing is the government’s stamp of approval on our software version,” Rasmussen said, arguing that TCMH physicians are possibly doing more than is required by the government to be meaningful users of electronic medical records in the clinics.

Linda Pamperien, chief financial officer at TCMH, submitted the capital purchase need to board members. She expressed frustration with GE, too.

“The server that GE requires to run this new version of EMR is actually larger than the server used by the hospital to run our hospital EMR system, which has a lot more users,” Pamperien explained. “The hardware requirements are ridiculous.”

When presented with the request, Omanez Fockler, chairperson of the TCMH board of trustees, said, “We have to do this.”

TCMH is in line to receive $1.6 million from the federal government for achieving “Stage 1, Meaningful Use” in the hospital. The TCMH clinics are also in line to receive a small amount of funds for each healthcare provider that achieves “Stage 1, Meaningful Use” with EMR in the clinics.

“Ultimately we will get the money back, but GE knew we were purchasing Centricity to meet meaningful use criteria back in 2007,” Pamperien said.

“GE is manipulating the system for their benefit because they know that we must have government-approved systems in place in order to meet the government requirements,” Murray said.

Dr. John Duff of CoxHealth noted that their healthcare facility was “probably in the same boat.” Centricity is utilized by CoxHealth physicians, which is where Rasmussen first used it while doing his residency program at Cox.

Rasmussen presented the medical staff report, noting that some changes to the staff will begin April 1. Rasmussen will serve as chief of staff, Dr. Charles Mueller will serve as vice chief of staff and Dr. Steve Hawkins will serve as secretary of the medical staff.

The field portion of the hospital’s annual audit is set for completion on March 24. BKD, LLP of Springfield, conducts the hospital audit. For 2010, TCMH underwent a “more qualified” audit due to receiving federal funds from the USDA through Se-Ma-No electric to build the TCMH Mountain Grove Clinic.

“Everything has gone well with the audit,” Murray explained. “Linda and her staff do a very good job preparing everything in a very organized way for the auditors.”

The finalized annual audit will be presented at the April board of trustees meeting.

Murray reported that behind the scenes work is continuing on the hospital expansion project, which is slated to begin this spring. JE Dunn, the construction firm managing the project, and USDA/Rural Development, administrators of the government loan to fund the project, are working out language in the building contract, which must be signed before the project can go to bid.

“We are ready, just waiting on them,” Murray said.

Planning for a late April public groundbreaking for the project is under way.

Pamperien presented the financials for February, noting that inpatient and outpatient revenues dipped below budgeted expectations.

According to Pamperien, more than half of the physicians on staff at the hospital took time off for vacation or continuing medical education, so only three of the hospital’s departments saw an increase in volumes for the month.

“We typically see a dip in revenues during the month of February because it’s such a short month,” Pamperien explained. “It doesn’t help when so many physicians are also out.”

TCMH ended February with a negative bottom line of $113,519, which created a negative year-to-date balance of $46,387.48.

Present at the meeting were: Murray; Pamperien; Rasmussen; Duff; Doretta Todd-Willis, chief nursing officer; Joleen Senter Durham, public relations director; Ellen Willis, physical therapist; Lance King, student; and board members Fockler, Janet Wiseman, Jane Kirkwood and Mark Hampton. Board member Mark Forbes was absent.

The next meeting of the TCMH Board of Trustees is noon Tuesday, April 24, in the downstairs meeting room of the hospital.



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