For the past year or so I’ve been predicting that one of the top EMR and EHR related topics will be EMR switching. Yes, that’s right. A practice or doctor switching from one EMR to another EMR. At HIMSS it was suggested to me that meaningful use was a big driver in doctors switching EMR software.
I find the idea of meaningful use driving doctors to change EHR software quite interesting. It makes some sense when you consider that some of the EHR software that doctors currently use isn’t a certified EHR and/or will make it difficult for them to show meaningful use. More common is the HUGE number of physicians that have to upgrade their EHR software. This is a bit of a travesty to me. In any release of EHR software there’s always a mix of new features, security fixes and other optimization. Why a doctor wouldn’t want all of these things is hard for me to understand.
I guess part of the problem with staying updated to the latest EHR software has to do with the client server model that many EHR software companies use. Upgraded client server software isn’t always easy or fun. There’s some things you can do to streamline it, but it takes time. When the upgrade doesn’t offer a new feature that a doctor wants to get his hands on, it’s hard to justify the costs associated with the upgrade. I’m talking about time costs to upgrade, not software costs to upgrade. Unfortunately, most doctors don’t think too much about the security implications of not updating their EHR software.
Meaningful use has definitely gotten a lot of doctors to upgrade or replace their EHR software. This seems like something that should have happened naturally, but I believe it’s a good outcome of meaningful use.
Going back to switching EMR software, I’ve heard from a number of EMR vendors that some of their best EMR sales are to those that already have an EMR. I know I’ve done a much better job buying my second cell phone than I did my first. I knew what I really wanted when I bought my second one. The same seems to apply to doctors buying their second EMR.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that doctors switch EHR in order to get a better one necessarily. It would be a really terrible thing if the way to get a quality EHR was to implement one first and then switch EHR. However, as time goes on there are going to be a HUGE variety of reasons to switch EHR software. Meaningful use might be driving EMR switching today, but there are going to be other factors driving doctors to change EMR in the future. Not the least of which could be a large number of doctors who focused too much on meaningful use and EHR incentive money and not nearly enough on the way the EHR selected will impact their practice. The other likely cause will be EHR consolidation and EHR software companies going out of business.
The real problem with all this EHR switching will be the lack of standards and flexibility around pulling the data out of the old EHR. I still have in mind some ways to hopefully help with this problem, but it’s a monumental task.