I recently had lunch with an EHR vendor that had an extremely small number of providers. I’ve known this EHR vendor for about 5 years, so this isn’t a new EHR vendor that’s trying to establish themselves in the industry. Instead they’ve focused on having a small, nimble team that’s focused on making the EHR work the right way for the doctors. It’s a novel approach I know, but pretty interesting that his business can survive with so few providers. Also worth noting is that the EHR is certified for meaningful use stage 2 as well.
Now think for a minute how the development process of an EHR vendor would be better if your EHR only had 25 doctors (For the record, the EHR vendor above has a few more than 25 doctors). Would it be much easier to satisfy just 25 physician users? Imagine the personalized service you could provide your users.
One of the real challenges I’ve seen with EHR vendors is that when they’re small, they are extremely responsive to their end users and the end users are very happy. As the EHR vendor grows, they lose that personal touch with the end users and many of those originally happy end users become dissatisfied with their EHR experience.
The problem with scaling an EHR user base is that you can’t make everyone happy. You have to make compromises that will be great in some people’s eyes and terrible in another person’s mind. What large EHR vendors do to try and solve this problem is they create configurable options that allow the end user to customize their system to meet their personal needs. Problem solved, right?
The problem with these configurations is two fold. First, you can’t make everything configurable. Once you go down the path of making everything configurable, it never ends. There’s always something else that could be made more configurable. So, the culture of configurability leads to unsatisfied users who can’t customize everything (even if what they want to customize shouldn’t matter).
Second, if everything is configurable, then it makes the implementation that much more complex. I’ve written before about the need for EHR vendors to have great “out of the box” user experience, but balancing that with allowing the user to configure everything that’s needed. This is a real challenge and most fail. Just look at the number of high priced EHR consulting companies out there. Many of them could better be defined as EHR configuration companies since the configuration needs are so large and complex.
Returning to where we started, when you’re an EHR vendor with 25 doctors you don’t have to build in all the flexibility and configurability. You’re small enough that as an EHR vendor you can do any needed customizations and configurations for the end user. Plus, with this kind of personalized service you can charge a little extra as well.
When you look at EHR development, there’s a spectrum of approaches starting with a fully in house, custom designed EHR through a fully outsourced EHR that can apply to any organization or specialty. In many ways a 25 doctor EHR has a lot of the same benefits of a fully custom EHR software, but spreads the costs of development across more doctors.
As a business, maybe a 25 doctor EHR company won’t dominate the world. Maybe they won’t have a huge exit to some other company or an IPO. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a great small business if it’s doing something you love. Once you get World Domination out of your sites, it changes a lot of things about how you do business.