Are EMR Vendors Really This Clueless?

Posted on August 24, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she’s served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

I know that EMR vendors don’t always understand their end-users as well as they should. That’s a shame, but it’s likely to happen given how far apart their day-to-day lives are. Still, I was truly taken aback by the following.

In the introduction to a report on nurse perceptions of EHRs, researchers shared some words on their market research philosophy. I don’t think the writers intended to criticize anyone, but nonetheless, the vendors don’t come out looking very good in the process.

“Some (mainly vendors) have questioned why we conduct research to front-line users of core HIT systems, such as physicians, nurses, billers, schedulers etc.,” they wrote. “They argue that only the high-ranking decision-makers matter when it comes to tracking customer satisfaction (NPS) and winning a greater piece of the market. We’ve had senior leaders among prominent vendors essentially tell us that they don’t care about what frontline users have to say.”

Okay. (Taking a breath, letting out the bad air, taking in the good.) I don’t wanna go off on a rant here, but are those vendors completely stupid?  Are they trying to destroy whatever credibility they have left among end users?  Are they hinting that we should just sell their companies’ stocks short and live in the Bahamas the rest of our days?

To be clear, the researchers actually put a reasonably cheerful spin on all of this. They suggest, ever so politely, that if vendors pay attention to end users, they will “unlock a competitive gold mine.”  “Yes, it would require additional development resources, adjusting some roadmap goals, and resetting internal expectations, but the payoff is a quantifiable Unique Selling Proposition that just doesn’t exist very often in HIT – having a highly-rated platform among users,” they note, quite reasonably.

Being me, however, I’ll be a bit less nice. Vendors, I’m amazed we still have a health IT industry if that’s really how your leaders really think. It takes a uniquely dumb organization to keep selling products the actual users hate, and an even dumber one to ignore user feedback that could fix the problem.

While healthcare organizations may have rammed a jerry-rigged mess down users’ throats for a while, that can’t last forever — in fact, the day of reckoning is coming soon. As EMR users become more confident, wired and demanding, they’ll demand that their systems actually work for them. Imagine that!

This reckoning won’t just impact your future plans, it will come to bite you now.

If you were hoping to turn your multi-year contract into a nice, fat revenue stream, forget it. Users will scream (and inflict some pain) if the EMR is lousy to use. In a population health-based world calling for everyone to be clinical data power users, they’ll have far more clout. You’ll either spend tons of time fixing and updating things or lose your contract if your customer has an out. Either way, you’ve hollowed out your revenue stream. Good luck with that.