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The Current Health IT and EHR Bubble

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I had a really great conversation with Shahid Shah, Jenny Laurello and John Moore at Health 2.0 about the bubble that we’re sitting in right now. John Moore’s response to my question, “When do you think the bubble will pop?” was priceless: “Which bubble?” Yes, we might be seeing multiple bubbles in healthcare IT: EHR, HIE, mobile health, etc.

For this blog, I’m most interested in the EHR bubble. Obviously, the bubble in this case is the creation of the $36 billion in EHR stimulus money that’s being handed out thanks to ARRA and the HITECH act. With over 600+ EHR vendors and a limited number of customers (I think there’s about 700,000 physicians in the US), there are going to be quite a few EHR vendors that won’t make it.

With that said, I don’t think the EHR bubble will pop like it has in other industries. In fact, I think the current IT industry bubble is going to be a much bigger problem. What’s amazing to me is how you can make a decent EHR business with only a few hundred doctors. Sure, a few hundred doctors won’t create 10 times return to investors, but those who take a conservative approach to building their EHR company could get by with what I believe is an astoundingly small customer base. Physicians are just that valuable.

Shahid Shah described EHR as a cottage industry and so cottage EHR companies will survive. I’m not exactly sure how he’d described cottage industry, but I think the regional nature of healthcare is definitely an influence on this. I’m sure many could argue that long term this strategy won’t work, but I believe at least for the forseeable future we’re not going to see the EHR bubble pop for a while.

As I think about the EHR companies I know, they all seem to have plenty of cash to make it through meaningful use stage 2 and likely all the way to meaningful use stage 3 at least. We’ll see how the smaller EHR companies do post meaningful use stage 2, but I don’t see any EHR vendors not making it to meaningful use stage 2. They’ll at least make it to MU stage 2. Then, based on their adoption results (or not) we may see a few EHR vendors run out of money.

What do you think? Are we in an EHR bubble? When will the EHR bubble pop? What other healthcare IT bubbles do you see?

May 16, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Making the Case for EMR VARs

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In the comments of a post by Dr. Gregg, someone made a really interesting case for going with an EMR VAR instead of the EMR vendor itself. Of course, this commenter was named “EMRVAR” which probably means they come from a VAR. So, you have to take these comments with a grain of salt, but their comments are worth considering. Here’s the case they made for VARs.

My Advice: Seek out a VAR – Value Added Reseller that cares more about you and your practice then any BIG NAME EMR CORPORATION that only cares about its stock valuation on any given day.

VARS

A VAR is an advocate for your practice – a Var’s many installs weigh more heavily than any one customer that the BIG EMR Corp has.

A VAR deploys technology from several vendors and adapts these products and services to its customer specific needs

A VAR partners with several product manufacturers and service providers. Though partnerships are formed, it is important to realize that a VAR is an independently owned and operated business that is not bound by any one corporation products, services and policies.

A VAR is often located locally to the communities it serves

The VAR model is important in healthcare and the above comments state a pretty good case for the EMR VAR. I find it interesting that in many respects this is the case that small EHR vendors make as well.

What has been your experience with EMR VARs?

May 15, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Cloud Computing Won’t Be the Death of Client Server EMR – Something Else Will Be

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One of the all time favorite topics of discussion here at EMR and HIPAA is around SaaS EHR software versus client server EHR software. They each go by many other names and the technical among us might know the hard core technical difference between each, but most doctors don’t know and don’t care. SaaS EHR software is often called hosted EHR software or ASP EHR software or even Cloud Computing if you want to use a general term. Client Server EHR software is sometimes called in house EHR software or self hosted EHR software. I’m sure there are other names I missed.

Regardless of what you call it, many people (usually those from SaaS software vendors) believe that client server software will lose out to the cloud. It’s hard to argue with them since in almost every other industry cloud based software has won.

Here’s why I don’t think we’re going to spell the death of client server software for a long time to come. Client server is going to be here for a long time because of such wide adoption by so many doctors. Not to mention, many of the client server EHR systems are really large implementations that would be hard to displace. Plus, there are many doctors who don’t care about the mobile benefits of a SaaS based EHR software. Quite a few doctors want to only use their EHR software in their office.

Certainly there are others on a client server based EHR system which will want to access their EHR outside of their office. Unfortunately, instead of EHR replacement we’re likely to see a hybrid environment that supports client server and some sort of app environment come out of the various client server EHR vendors.

Sure, a lot of doctors will also use Citrix or other remote desktop environments and hate the user experience, but it will pacify them until the hybrid EHR environment is built. In fact, that hate towards the remote desktop environment on a mobile device will drive the development of this hybrid approach. The advantages of a client server environment with an app connection will keep the client server environment around for a while.

So, while many want to declare the death to client server, I’m not ready to do so. Sure, SaaS EHR software has its advantages, but client server software isn’t going to go down without a fight and they’re going to be around for a while since in many cases they hold the high ground.

May 9, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Meaningful Use Does Not Ensure Solid EHR Company – Meaningful Use Monday

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For those of you who don’t follow all the inside EHR “baseball” that’s happening right now with Allscripts, you might want to check it out. If you use one of Allscripts various EHR software (do they have 6 EHR softwares now? I lose count) then you really want to pay attention. Here’s my cliff notes version of what’s happened for those who don’t want to research the details. Half the Allscripts board left and so did the CFO. It appears it was an Eclipsys departure with the previous Allscripts board members and CEO Glen Tullman remaining. After this happened the stock (MDRX) plummeted.

While to those inside the EMR world will realize that this isn’t a death knell for everything Eclipsys related, many who don’t know how important the Eclipsys software is for Allscripts could easily see this a different way. Of course, in the heartless world of publicly traded companies and CEO’s doing what they can to prop up stock price, you never know what action they might take next.

The best evaluation I saw of the Allscripts situation is that it is very likely that Allscripts and Glen Tullman will use this stock drop to start making even more drastic moves. For example, we all know that they don’t need that many EHR software and so none of us should be surprised if they choose to sunset 1 or more of their EHR software. Yes, that’s right. Your EHR software isn’t safe even if you buy it from a large EHR vendor like Allscripts (see also when GE ceased operations of Centricity Advance).

Think about it from Allscripts perspective. It takes A LOT of extra resources to ensure that multiple EHR software products are even just meeting the meaningful use and certified EHR requirements let alone actually creating innovative new EHR software features. Cutting out an EHR software will provide a huge cost savings to Allscripts going forward.

Why is this the topic of Meaningful Use Monday? I think this is an incredibly important topic related to meaningful use, because I can already see the physicians and practice managers hitting my website if Allscripts chose to cease their Allscripts MyWay EHR offering (I have no indication that Myway is gone. I’m just speaking hypothetically). I’m quite certain that many physicians and practice managers will wonder how an EHR vendor could sunset or stop developing an EHR software that is certified for meaningful use.

It’s quite simple: Meaningful Use and EHR Certification are NO guarantee of an EHR software’s long term viability.

I have a section in my EMR selection e-Book about ensuring the viability of your EHR vendor. I’ll admit that it’s not an easy task and is more art than science given our limited information about MANY EHR vendors. However, it’s worth considering the long term plans of an EHR vendor and a particular EHR software in that vendor’s quiver. Although, meaningful use and EHR certification do nothing to help you in that regard.

One final warning: we’re just at the start of EHR vendors going out of business, EHR vendors being bought by larger vendors, EHR software being closed down, EMR software being sunset. I give it another year before the Tsunami of EHR software mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, fire sales hit our shore. Although, the early warning signs are there and so we should prepare for the oncoming wave. The challenge is knowing where you can find high ground.

April 30, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

EHR Is the Database of Healthcare

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I’ve been regularly writing and thinking for the past few months about something I’ve branded as the “Smart EMR.” Basically, the EMR of the future won’t be a repository of documents and information like before. Instead, doctors will have an expectation that the EMR is smart and can do something valuable with all the health information that’s stored in the EMR. I love this subject. I should put together a presentation on it and start touring it around the country, but I digress.

While at HIMSS I had the pleasure of talking with Sean Benson, VP of Innovation at Wolters Kluwer Health. In our discussion, he said something that hit me like a ton of bricks. He suggested that EHR software is the database of healthcare. The implication being that EHR software is good at collecting healthcare data and storing that data. What they’re not good at doing is actually providing the smart layer that goes on top of that data.

I’m sure that many who know about Wolters Kluwer Health’s (WKH) software offerings might see Sean’s view as bias since WKH, as best I can tell, wants to be the smart layer that goes on top of EHR software. In fact, they showed me some really interesting technology they have for processing all the medical information out there into a really digestible format, but that’s a post for another day. Their interests and clinical decision support software aside, the idea of the EHR software being the database of healthcare seemed to resonate with me.

I’ve often described EHR software to date as a big billing engine. Some EHR are trying to break that mold, but that’s a hard mold to break since a big billing engine is what the market has asked them to create (for the most part). With that in mind, it’s certainly hard for an EHR software to develop a true Smart EHR platform.

I can see in my mind’s eye a product development team going into the EHR vendor executives office and pitching some amazingly smart and effective EHR software for improving patient care. The cynical me then sees the EHR vendor executive saying, “We can’t monetize that.” or a related “That won’t sell more EHR.” The sad thing is that the executive is probably right…at least today. The market hasn’t started demanding a Smart EHR and improved patient care. I’m hopeful that the new ACO model will help to shift that focus, but it’s still too early to tell if that will provide the impetus for change.

Another part of me hopes that a true entrepreneur will come along and build an EHR that provides such a stark contrast in how it provides patient care that doctors won’t be able to resist using it. Something impactful like the stethoscope, that if a doctor isn’t using it patients won’t go to that doctor. However, this line of thinking seems to push the concept of EHRs being the database of healthcare and not the All in One Smart EHR.

If I’m an entrepreneur with the vision of transforming patient care through smart use of EHR data, why would I want to build an EHR from the ground up when there are a number of very large EHR vendors that have APIs that allow me to build upon their data? If the data’s already been collected, then I’m likely to focus all of my energy creating innovative solutions with that data, not creating the mechanism to collect the data.

What’s a database? Tools to collect data, store data and then retrieve data. What’s an EHR today? Mechanisms to collect health data, store the data and then retrieve the data.

Ok, that’s a bit of an over simplification, but the analogy is there. You can see why so many EHR vendors are trying to become “the platform” of healthcare. Turns out that being the repository of data that everyone else builds cool stuff on top of is very valuable. However, building that platform requires a very different culture and focus than building Smart EHR solutions.

This is why I’m sure many EHR vendors will try to develop some Smart EHR solutions, but in the end EHR will be the Database of Healthcare that other Smart EHR applications connect into. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

March 1, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

The Meaningful Use Decision – Meaningful Use Monday

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What else could be written about meaningful use that hasn’t already been said? Really. I’ve been thinking this over since I think we’ve been writing about the EHR incentive money and meaningful use for almost two years now.

I still remember the first time I read about the government planning to give out incentive money for those who adopt an EMR. Some thought that they’d just give out the money to doctors who adopt an EHR kind of like they did for those who purchased a home. I guess the government assumes that when you purchase a home you’re going to use it, but when you purchase an EHR that’s not always the case. So, meaningful use was born.

One of my biggest problems with meaningful use has always been its conflict with certified EHR. I’ll never understand why the government wants to certify EHR software (ie. more expense) when they could have just built the requirements of meaningful use so that the only way for a user to meet the requirements is by using an EHR software that performed the functions required. I guess I can partially see some security checks that could be done in an EHR certification that wouldn’t show in meaningful use, but does anyone really think that EHR software is much more secure thanks to EHR certification?

Of course, much of this is water under a bridge. We have meaningful use and certified EHR and there’s no going back now.

At this point, I wonder how many doctors are still undecided on meaningful use and EHR software. Considering all the discussion and chatter, I feel like most doctors have made the decision on the subject. They’re either going to use an EHR or not. I guess there might b e a few doctors that want to use an EHR, but are waiting for the right one. Certainly there are many doctors that know that EHR is the future, but they just haven’t committed the time to evaluating the various EHR software and deciding which one is best for their office.

My gut feeling tells me that the EHR incentive money wasn’t enough for many of them to finally get down to the business of selecting and implementing an EHR. I imagine many of them are waiting and hoping for a clear EHR market leader to emerge. I’m sorry to inform them that I don’t think that’s going to happen for another 2-3 years at least. Plus, I still think we might have market leaders in each medical specialty.

I’ve heard some argue that it’s the future meaningful use stages that have people scared to implement an EHR. Basically, they believe that meaningful use stage 1 is reasonable, but they think that meaningful use stage 2 & 3 will be much harder and not worth the effort. Kind of reminds me of the arguments that businesses have made about the uncertainty of economic policy causing them not to “move” on more investments. I think many doctors are uncertain about the EHR stimulus money, future stages of meaningful use, and how private insurance companies may react in the future. This uncertainty does cause issues for their ability to plan.

One thing I think the EHR industry could do to provide more comfort to doctors is to provide doctors that adopt your EHR a pathway to leave your EHR if you don’t meet their expectations. Why vendors try to lock someone into their EHR that hates it is beyond me. Ok, I get the short term gain and why you hate losing customers. However, by locking them into a product they don’t like you’re creating an eternal enemy to your product and believe me when I say that doctors talk. Plus, if you have doctors that want to leave because your product doesn’t meet their expectations, then you have a bigger issue on your hands. Sure one or two that have work flows that don’t match your product, fine. A mass exodus from your product because you chose to make it easy for them to leave means you should probably fold up shop anyway or fix the reasons why they want to leave.

Unfortunately, the large EHR vendors won’t really care at all. They’re all about lock in whether you like it or not. I hope doctors start to kick against this and support EHR vendors that provide pathways out of their product. I’d still be happy to support a movement to “liberate” EHR data. Any EHR vendors want to join?

This brings us back to meaningful use. It’s too bad the meaningful use didn’t require practical elements that would make a lot of sense for government to institute. For example…
-Require EHR vendors to create an easy export of all patient data
-Require EHR vendors to communicate with other EHR vendors
-Require EHR vendors to send public health data (they’ve kind of done this)

I’m sure there are more, but that’s a good start.

Now the most interesting thing is going to be how this first wave of meaningful use doctors react to the EHR software they’ve chosen. Unfortunately, I’ve really only seen meaningful use doctors who’ve had an EHR software well before the term meaningful use was coined. If you are a doctor who recently implemented an EHR post meaningful use, I’d love to hear from you so we can tell your story.

October 10, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Two Stage Process for Meaningful Use Stage 2?

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An interesting piece of news (some might say rumor) is coming out of AHIMA as posted by Joseph Goedert on Health Data Management. Here’s an excerpt of what was said:

An idea floating around Washington could result in Stage 2 of the electronic health records meaningful use program being different in each of its two years.

That’s what Dan Rode, vice president of advocacy and policy at the American Health Information Management Association, told an audience during the AHIMA 2011 Convention & Exhibit in Salt Lake City.

So the scenario could be that Stage 2 starts in January 2013 with minor changes from Stage 1, such as raising meaningful use quality measures a bit. But any major changes or new requirements, such as requiring the use of SNOMED CT in certain parts of the medical record, would wait until 2014, Rode said.

I’m sure this would be welcomed by almost everyone in the healthcare IT and EMR industry. Doctors and EHR vendors in general want to do as little as possible to get the government EHR incentive money. Even if some will publicly say that they want to use meaningful use to raise the standard of care.

I purposefully created the title to highlight the irony of meaningful use stage 2 having 2 stages. I’m not sure if we’ll call it meaningful use stage 2.0 and meaningful use stage 2.5 for the second step of stage 2. Of course, they could just make meaningful use stage 2 a simpler model and then add a meaningful use stage 4 (assuming the legislation allows it). However, then we’d really confuse doctors more than they already are when it comes to EHR incentive money, meaningful use requirements and their various stages.

This to me is still just a rumor, but it will be interesting to see how they make it happen if in fact they do try and do it. I know many people who will welcome any watering down of meaningful use. Even if you won’t hear them saying it in public.

October 5, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Common EHR Implementation Issue – EMR Upgrade Problems

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I’m really excited that this Common EHR implementation issues series has been so popular. If you missed it, you can see the previous posts in the series: Unexpected EHR Expenses, EHR Performance Issues, a little follow up to avoiding the EHR performance issues altogether, and inadequate EHR templates.

This weeks common EHR implementation issue is: EMR Upgrade Problems

I’d like to categorize this EHR implementation issue into two areas. One is upgrading to an EHR from an old legacy EHR and/or PMS. The second is upgrading your existing EHR that’s just outdated. I’ll take them in reverse order.

Upgrade of Existing Outdated EHR
In this world of your web browser and operating system auto updating at regular intervals it’s sometimes hard to remember that not all software does that. In fact, it turns out that most software doesn’t auto update (often for good reason). Of course, this problem doesn’t apply to a SaaS based EHR software since those updates are applied whether you like it or not. The nice part is that the SaaS EHR updates appear to the user to just happen automatically with little to no intervention on their part. Of course, we’ll save what happens when a SaaS EHR update causes you problems for another post. In the client server world of EHR (or hybrid EHR as some like to call themselves when they’re web based on an in house server) you will have to deal with updating your EHR.

I think with rare exception, it’s a huge mistake to not keep your EHR software up to date (goes for most other software as well). I’m not suggesting that even client server software should auto update. Considering the deployment and upgrade model of most EHR software, it’s almost essential to review the new feature list before doing an update to ensure that the update won’t cause you unnecessary heartache. Understanding the changes that will happen with the EHR Upgrade will let you warn your users about it so that they don’t come running into your office after the upgrade wondering why their favorite feature was changed.

What’s the problem with not upgrading? Many might just think that they don’t need to update their EHR software since they don’t want/need the extra features that are part of the upgrade. This is a bad strategy for a couple reasons. First, there are often security fixes that are part of the EHR upgrade that you’ll be missing out on if you don’t upgrade. Second, a bunch of relatively minor updates is much better on a clinic than one massive one that requires a ton of change. Third, when a future update comes that has a feature you do want, it’s not always pretty to go through multiple upgrades at the same time. Fourth, try calling the EHR support when you’re on an old version. Most of the time they’re going to say you need to upgrade for them to appropriately support you.

One other suggestion on EMR Upgrades now that I’ve supported the idea of upgrading. Just because I suggest you upgrade to the latest version of your EHR, doesn’t mean you have to be the beta tester for the company. Do the upgrade early in the process, but not necessarily so early that you’re going to be the bug tester for the company.

Upgrading an EHR from a Legacy EHR or PMS
This situation happens most often when either a clinic decides to switch from their old hasn’t been updated legacy PMS (which might include some basic EHR features) or when a clinic decides to move off their existing EHR to a new one.

Upgrading from a legacy PMS could easily be a whole series of blog posts. Suffice it to say that the biggest challenge with the upgrade from the old legacy PMS system is often getting the data out of it. Some legacy PMS systems don’t provide that data willing. In fact, many will even charge you to get access to it. They’ve basically lost you as a customers, so they’re trying to maximize whatever revenue they can get. It’s not pretty.

Even if you can get access to the data, there’s often a lot of data manipulation that will have to occur. A common problem that’s related to this is whether you even want to get the data out of the old PMS. Far too often, the data in the old legacy system has so much junk in it, that it’s worth considering the option of starting from scratch. It’s not pretty to upload inconsistent and ugly data from a legacy system into your nice, new EHR software.

Switching from one EHR software to another is becoming more and more common. In 2-3 years I believe we’re going to see an amazing influx of EHR software switches. It will be the topic du jour. We’re already starting to see it in a number of situations: an EHR that isn’t certified, an EHR that the doctor hates, an EHR that’s gone under, an EHR that’s sold to another company, etc.

The biggest problem right now with switching EHR software is that there’s no standard for the data to be exported and imported into a new EHR company. Some of you might remember my post asking EHR vendors to consider the value of EHR data liberation. In it I describe why not only is it the right ethical thing to do, but it also can make a lot of business sense to do so. Sadly, I’ve only really seen one EHR software that has embraced the concept of really liberating the data in their EHR.

I’d love to support a movement from EHR vendors that embrace the concept of EMR data liberation. I imagine most are too afraid of giving their users an easy option to leave their EHR. It’s too bad EHR vendors are so focused on protecting their business instead of focusing everything they do on the customer experience, but I digress.

Considering the above described state of EHR data export, you can see why moving to an EHR is such an issue. It’s worth mentioning this topic before you even select an EHR. Before purchasing the EHR, ask the question, What if this EHR is terrible and I want to switch? This is water under a bridge if you’re already in a compromising position under contract with an EHR you don’t like.

Unfortunately, I don’t really have very many great suggestions for those in this position. Just some words of comfort. First, switching EHR software can actually be easier than implementing an EHR in the first place. You already have the computers and IT infrastructure. Plus, for some reason second EHR implementations have a much higher success and satisfaction rate from what I’ve seen. Second, while it’s a bitter bullet to bite, everyone that I know that’s done it wishes they’d done it earlier. Although, don’t rush into another EHR just because. Take your time to select an EHR properly if you’re going to switch, but don’t be afraid to switch based on what economists call sunk costs. Third, this is one case where it’s often good to hire someone who’s done these type of EHR switching before. They can be a big help.

September 29, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

EMR Security Monitoring Systems

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There’s been an interesting situation going on between a couple EHR vendors. I first saw this when I got the press release that meridianEMR filed a lawsuit against UroChart. The lawsuit claims that UroChart obtained access to meridianEMR’s data.(Note: See this comment from IT Director of meridianEMR that discusses more details of what happened and how no data was breached.)

Lawsuits aside, meridianEMR is trying to capitalize on the situation by talking about their EMR security monitoring system was what notified them of the breach attack by UroChart. They call it their Advanced Monitoring System (AMS) and say it responds immediately to any breaches attacks and protects patient records.

I’m not sure if it’s a smart move to use a breach of their system as a way to promote their ability to protect patient records. I guess they can argue that their monitoring service was what protected their patient records. However, the lawsuit is claiming that patient records were at risk. I don’t think that’s something any EMR vendor wants tied to their name, is it?

Marketing strategy aside, this security monitoring service is interesting and I can’t say I’ve really seen something like it in any other EMR system. Sure, they all have some sort of audit tracking and trail. However, I think most EMR vendor’s strategy is not detection, but prevention. They harden their systems using the best techniques, but don’t do much to try and detect breaches. Should that be changed?

One problem with breaches is that good hackers know how to even avoid the detection part. I still remember when my friend showed me how he had hacked into a server and you could see him logged in. Then, he ran a script and you couldn’t see him anymore. I guess if you compare it to the physical world, it’s like having a camera watching the front door, but no camera on the back door. However, in the digital world there are lots of different doors, including those we don’t know about.

Some might argue that ignorance is bliss in this instance. Sure, no EMR vendor is going to admit that in public. Neither is a doctor. However, the regulations have made it pretty harsh when you know that there’s been a breach of your system. You basically have to make it known to all the world. However, if you don’t know that your EMR system has been compromised, then you have no such requirements.

I’m sure some people won’t like me saying this, but be sure that many doctors and EMR vendors have thought about this. I’m sure there were parallels in the paper world too. So, let’s not act like this is really that new. Although, certainly technology has made it possible to have much larger breaches.

One thing worth noting is that I haven’t seen a group of healthcare hackers forming. There’s no underground group of people that I’ve heard of that are trying to hack and get access to healthcare data. Financial data is much easier to monetize for a hacker than healthcare data. That’s not to say that healthcare data isn’t valuable and can’t have consequences if it’s put in the wrong hands. However, most hackers do it for the Lulz, for financial gain, or vengeance. Things could certainly change, but I haven’t seen healthcare as a prime target for hackers. I’d love to see if you have evidence that says otherwise.

If you evaluate the list of breaches that are published by HHS, this seems to agree with my above evaluation. Almost every single breach was just due to something being lost, a physical device being stolen (which you can almost guarantee they wanted the laptop and not the healthcare data which they probably didn’t even know was on the laptop), or inappropriate use by someone on a system already.

It will be interesting to see how these EMR security monitoring systems evolve. Plus, will we see more need for these type of protections and monitoring of EMR systems?

September 21, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Independent Thinking of Doctors Limits EHR Vendor Consolidation

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I’m not sure all the details of why this is the case (but I’m sure some will tell me why in the comments), but doctors are some of the most independent thinkers that I know. I’m not saying whether this is a good or a bad thing. It’s just an observation based on thousands of interactions with doctors from all specialties. This independence is shown in a plethora of areas from charting to treating to diagnosing to the business of medicine.

Turns out, this independence is part of why I’ve heard doctors say hundreds of times that they basically want their own EHR and not a mainstream one. Doctors want an EHR that fits their unique practice style. Thus they have an expectation that whatever EHR they choose should understand that each doctor is different and naturally adapt to each unique doctors need. Ok, that’s a pretty broad generalization and no one would ever vocalize it that way, but it’s an undercurrent that I’ve seen time and time again.

I believe this is an important characteristic of the EHR market that must be considered. If you don’t accept the broad theory of doctor independence in practice style and approach, then most of you will appreciate that doctors from various specialties have unique needs. The easy to understand examples are Pediatricians and OB/GYNs. Everyone can quite readily see that tracking child growth and pregnancy require different charting and documentation requirements. I believe each specialty could describe similar requirements that are unique to that specialty.

This doctor and specialty independence is why I’ve long argued against what everyone loves to call mass EHR vendor consolidation. Certainly we can all agree that we have too many EHR vendors right now. However, I’ve read many many people argue that there’s only going to be 3-5 EHR vendors left standing after the mass EHR consolidation (or EHR vendor failure). I just don’t believe that’s the case. If we get down to 100 EHR companies, I’ll be impressed.

There are two things that might partially affect my EHR consolidation prediction.

First, I won’t be surprised if some really smart company comes along and scoops up each of the best of breed EHR companies for various specialties. However, instead of sunsetting the acquired EHR software, they continue to offer that same EHR software to a specific specialty. Then, they do this over and over again across all the specialties. So, the larger company would own a pediactric EHR, an OB/GYN EHR, a Family Practice EHR, a Cardiology EHR, a Orthopedic EHR, an Oncology EHR, etc. You get the idea. Instead of getting benefits from software development consolidation, they get the benefits in other areas of their business. It would be really fun to run a company like this.

The other healthcare trends that could have a serious impact on this is the ACO movement and hospitals buying up clinics. I’m still not sure how those two trends are going to play out. However, this type of consolidation of healthcare entities could impact whether a specialty specific EHR is a viable option. Clinics that are bought by a hospital or become part of an ACO lose some of their independence. At least their independence in selecting an EHR software.

Are there things I’m missing? Any other trends that are happening that will change the EHR consolidation landscape?

July 13, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.