Everyone and their dog seems to be telling people that “Now is the time to purchase an EMR system.” Well, maybe not everyone, but a lot of highly visible people in HIT and many bloggers. I previously posted some of my thoughts about when to implement an EMR. However, I think many people missed the point of what I was trying to say.
Now is the time for every doctor to select an EMR software. This is not a simple process (see this 300+ EMR vendor list) and every clinic should be participating in this process. Now is a GREAT time to select an EMR software.
Plus, many, many, many clinics should even buy an EMR now. A large number of clinics aren’t going to have access to any of the EMR stimulus money no matter what they do. I work for one clinic that is in this exact situation (and you’ll love the irony that this clinic uses a CCHIT Certified EHR). At my EMR stimulus presentation, I had one guy come up and ask “So, if I don’t take Medicare or Medicaid, then there’s no money for me, right?” My answer was, “No.” (Yes, I did say there could be grants or something, but you get the point). If you’re in this position, then what’s holding you back from implementing an EMR? Go look through this list of EMR benefits and you can easily make the case to implement now. Not implementing an EMR in this case is still a mistake.
Many other clinics can easily “ignore” the EMR stimulus money and focus on the other EMR benefits. By focusing on selecting an EMR that will maximize these benefits, you can create your own EMR stimulus package. Not to mention you’ll select a better piece of EMR software. EMR software that can’t provide you those other EMR benefits is not one you want in your office even if they can get you access to the EMR stimulus money. Plus, I’ve talked a number of times about the risks in relying too much on the EMR stimulus money. There’s a lot of reasons why you might want it and try to get it but end up with nothing. Essentially these doctors are ones that can treat the EMR stimulus like bonus money. If they get it, great. If they don’t, well they’ve still gleaned the benefits of having an EMR.
Now back to my original post about waiting to purchase (note I said purchase and not select) an EMR. There are a number of clinics where the EMR stimulus money could make a huge difference in the purchase of an EMR. Many of the doctors with lower reimbursements, for example, could use the EMR stimulus money. In these cases, I think people shouldn’t be rushing things. They should ignore the calls from all angles telling them to purchase an EMR NOW.
However, even in these cases, I think it’s reasonable to finish demoing and selecting an EMR right now. If you do that, once CMS finalizes the guidelines for meaningful use and certified EHR you’ll be ready to purchase an EMR and implement. If you don’t, then it’s correct that you won’t likely have time to implement an EMR and receive the EMR stimulus money. Adopting an EMR fully takes time.
No one reading this blog should think that I’m a critic of EMR software. I am a critic of hype in the EMR industry. I’m also a critic of useless certifications and other methods that don’t provide value to doctors. I am not a critic of EMR. In fact, I’m a huge proponent of EMR software use. Done well, EMR software can be a wonderful asset to any clinic. Were it not the case, I’d have stopped blogging about EMR long ago.