St. Luke's expects to spend $200 million on electronic records system

adutton@idahostatesman.comOctober 16, 2013 

St. Luke's Health System says it will spend $200 million on a new electronic medical records system. The system will be fully launched sometime after 2017.

The launch of the Epic system is under the spotlight in a U.S. District Court trial against St. Luke's. The cost of electronic medical records systems is frequently cited as a major reason for independent doctors to seek employment with larger health systems.

St. Luke's is defending its purchase of Nampa's Saltzer Medical Group — a buyout that Saint Alphonsus Health System, Treasure Valley Hospital, the Federal Trade Commission and the Idaho attorney general say broke antitrust laws and gave St. Luke's too many primary care physicians in the area.

St. Luke's argues that its electronic medical records system is superior to other systems now in use. Health-care providers who use the St. Luke's system can share data and patient records more easily, and their patients can participate more actively in their care, St. Luke's officials have said in court.

But it will be years before St. Luke's is using the system throughout its hospitals and clinics. St. Luke's Chief Medical Information Officer Marc Chasin testified Wednesday that St. Luke's is still using old systems for nursing, hospital and emergency-room care. A patient who saw doctors at Saltzer, St. Luke's in Boise and St. Luke's in the Magic Valley would use three different portals to access his medical record online, Chasin said.

The Boise-based health system plans to start an "affiliate" program that will allow independent doctors to use the Epic system. St. Luke's will cover 85 percent of the cost — the most St. Luke's can pay under the law — for those doctors to be hooked up with Epic's software.

The first practice to jump in is Women's Health Associates, a six-doctor group located in a St. Luke's medical office building in Downtown Boise.

Chasin said St. Luke's will spend about $1.4 million on the pilot launch for Women's Health Associates. The independent group will bear about $100,000 of the cost of the Epic software, he said.

That doesn't count ongoing support, which will cost St. Luke's $20,000 to $24,000 per doctor per year, he said.

Other hospital systems have reportedly spent anywhere from $80 million in New Hampshire to $1 billion in California on Epic, the system St. Luke's is adopting.

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, @IDS_Audrey

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