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“Our EMR is So Slow”

Posted on September 1, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Many of you might remember my recent post about EMR Performance Issues (ie. EMR Slowness). Turns out, the post had a pretty big impact on some readers of the site. In fact, it sounds like it was partially therapeutic for some to realize that they’re not alone.

I asked permission to share one of the responses with you so you could get some more first hand perspective on the issue of EMR slowness. I share it in the hopes that others can be aware and avoid it. Plus, I hope the EHR vendors that read this will take it to heart and be fanatically focused on EMR speed and customer support.

I’ve removed the name of the writer and the names of the vendors. Plus, realize that it was written originally in an email communication and not necessarily to be published.

OMG…you hit the nail on the head with this post. Our EMR is so slow. It often takes minutes between pages. My clinical and front office staffs so frustrated. We have had nothing but finger pointing going on ever since.

Part of the issue is the interface between our practice management system VENDOR A and our EMR VENDOR B It takes a minimum of 3-4 minutes for data entered into VENDOR A to roll into VENDOR B. My front office staff has taken to entering the data twice, once in each program in order to get our patients registered timely. When you see 80-100 patients in a day, a few minutes makes all the difference.

Additionally, certain criteria does not roll over, namely email addresses. This makes it impossible for us to send out patient visit summaries thus we are unable to meet meaningful use for that criteria. Referring physician is another part that does not roll over.

The most frustrating part is that no one will take any responsibility for the issue much less work on fixing it. These two vendors spend all day playing the blame game. Fortunately for our practice, we have a wonderful IT company that we work with. Our IT specialist has spend countless hours trying to mediate between these two vendors. Most times he just fixes what he can but we are paying for his services in addition to the tech support agreement with VENDOR A and VENDOR B.

A perfect example happened this week when the EMR went down in one of our exam rooms.. First we spend at least 10-20 minutes on hold waiting for a VENDOR B tech to pick up the call. In this particular case, they worked remotely for at least 4 hours on this one computer only to tell us they could not fix it.

I called my IT guy and he fixed it within 10 minutes. My staff spends countless hours on the phone most days trying to keep the system up and running. We are in the process of replacing all our PCs and I recently upgraded our Internet to a 10×10 fiber service however we still are not seeing any difference in speed.

It is at least comforting to know we are not alone. I plan to hang up your post for all my staff to see. It may not make our system work faster but hopefully it will give them some comfort knowing they are not alone.

Thanks for all the great information.

Avoiding EHR Performance Issues in the First Place

Posted on August 26, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In my post about the common EHR implementation problem of EHR slowness, I mentioned that I’d follow up with a post on how you can avoid the EMR slowness issue altogether. It’s better to avoid than fix problems.

The best way to approach EHR performance issues is to make them part of your EHR selection process. EHR performance issues could and should be a deal breaker for you when you’re evaluating EHR companies. How then can you identify EHR software that might have these performance issues?

Red Flag #1 – EHR Demo Slowness – Bring a red pen to your demo and every time they say something like, “It’s not usually this slow?” or “It must be slow because it’s running on my laptop.” make a BIG RED mark on your paper (or tablet if you’re advanced like that). Even one red mark should be cause for concern and investigation.

Certainly there are situations where environmental issues can cause slowness to an EHR. So, you can’t completely rule them out completely for this, but this is their demo. This is there one time to shine. If they can’t get their EHR demo running at full speed, what makes you think an EHR production environment will be much better?

You can make an extra red mark if it’s a SaaS EHR that’s providing the demo. They might say it’s just “the internet connection.” Well, guess what? Soon, that’s going to be you using that EHR and often on similar internet connections.

Of course, the message to EHR vendors is to make sure your demo runs as fast as your production system.

Red Flag #2 – Site Visit Slowness – While the demo can tell you a lot about an EHR software, it can’t necessarily tell you the speed of the EHR software. Just because the EHR is fast during the EHR demo, doesn’t mean that same EHR software will be fast in a production environment. Add this to the multitude of reasons why a site visit to a current user of that EHR is so important.

Make sure to do that site visit at one comparable in size and users to your clinic. You don’t want to look at the EHR responsiveness of a solo practice if you’re going to be a 6 provider multi clinic setup. Size matters when it comes to EHR speed.

Once on site, you can get an idea of the speed and responsiveness of the EHR software in two ways. First, observe the users of the EHR in the clinic. See if they exhibit any of the systems listed in the first section of this post. Another observation is to see how quickly they’re clicking around the EHR. If you see a lot of clicks in a row with little waiting in between clicks, that’s a great thing. If you see them click, wait, click, wait, click, click , wait. Be afraid.

The second way is to ask the EHR users. The problem with doing this is that only one response has value. If they say the EHR is slow, then you’ve gleaned some important information that’s worth checking on. If they say the EHR is fast, then you don’t necessarily know. The problem is that you don’t know what the user considers fast. What’s their frame of reference for saying it’s fast? Do they know what fast is? Have they just been using the EHR software so long that they’ve hit a rhythm that makes it feel faster than it really is? It’s a good sign if they say that it’s fast, but take it with a grain of salt.

Red Flag #3 – Use A Demo EHR System Yourself – Most EHR vendors will provide you a way to demo the product yourself. This isn’t a fool proof method to test EHR slowness, but it’s another decent test of the EHR’s responsiveness. Try it out using your internet connection and your computer hardware. Nothing like first hand experience documenting some patient visits to learn about the speed of an EHR.

EHR Speed Suggestion – Don’t Skimp on Hardware
Far too often I see a clinic skimp on the hardware requirements and regret it later. In fact, they often end up spending the money twice since they have to buy new hardware since they skimped in the beginning.

Of course, this suggestion can be taken too far as well. The computer and laptop manufacturers will try to sell you the whole kitchen and you might only need the stove and refrigerator. To put it in more practical terms, you’re going to want plenty of RAM, but do you really need the webcam, Blu-ray player, and special 100 in 1 media device?

Just because an EHR vendor says their EHR software can work on a certain hardware configuration doesn’t mean it should be used on that hardware configuration. In the middle there’s a spot between can and overkill that’s called optimal. Find that hardware configuration and you’ll be a much happier EHR user.

Don’t accept an EHR that’s slow. Make sure that the EHR performs at a satisfactory level. I know of nothing that frustrates a clinic more than a slow EHR.

Common EMR Implementation Issue – EHR Performance Issues

Posted on August 24, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’re back again with our ongoing series on Common EMR Implementation Issues. Seems like readers really liked my first entry in the series about Unexpected EHR Expenses. To be quite honest, I was really happy with how that post turned out myself. It’s one of the most comprehensive and useful posts I’ve written in the 5.5+ years I’ve been writing about EMR and EHR. Hopefully we can continue that trend.

Today’s Common EMR Implementation Problem: EHR Performance Issues

I have to admit that this is a really tough problem to crack. However, it’s also incredibly common. The symptoms for this problem usually are described as, “THIS EHR IS SOOOOOO SLOW!” (This is appropriate use of ALL CAPS since they are often yelling this.) Followed by a *huff* and an angry doctor or nurse leaving their computer in a fit of rage. Other symptoms might include drumming fingers on the desk while staring blankly at the screen, lots of mouse clicks that get progressively longer and more emphatic, or the sitting back in your chair staring at the screen hoping that something will happen.

Once you’ve identified that there’s a problem with EHR slowness, then begins the fun and exciting (that was written in the sarcasm font) journey to identify the real issue. The biggest challenge with identifying the slowness is that there are a multitude of places that could be the bottleneck that’s causing your slowness. Some of which you can fix, and others you have to rely on your EHR vendor to fix.

To assist you in the ugly process of improving EHR performance issues, here’s a list of possible reasons you could have a slow EHR.

EHR Slowness You’re Responsible For
Slow Computers and/or Laptops – I’ve heard of a few EHR vendors offering free iPad’s with their EHR, but for the most part, you’re responsible for buying the computers and laptops for your EHR implementation. See my “EHR Speed Suggestion – Don’t Skimp on Hardware” below for more info on buying the right hardware. Needless to say, I’ve seen many slow computers be replaced and the EHR went a lot faster.

Slow Local Internet – Your local internet (or LAN as it’s often referred) could be the cause of your EHR slowness. I could have split this point into a half dozen possible issues. Some of them might include: Bad network card, bad cabling, bad switch, bad router, bad routing configuration, bad DNS configuration, overwhelmed network, etc etc.

Of course, in most cases you’ll probably have to call your IT service provider to solve these issues. They should be able to easily test most of the above issues and prove that it works for other internet applications and so it must be some other issue causing your EHR slowness.

Slow ISP (external internet connection) – If you’re using an in house EHR server, you won’t have to worry about this as much (except for interfaces, or EHR updates). If you’re using a SaaS EHR, then this could be a major bottleneck. Good thing is that it’s easy to test your ISP speed. If you’re speed is great to other sites, but not your EHR then you can move on to another issue. If you’re speed is bad for all sites on the internet, you need to see if your ISP can make some changes to provide the speed you’ve purchases from them. Otherwise, you might just need a bigger ISP connection than you have and you’ll be able to get your EHR running much faster.

Also, be sure you don’t have employees using up all your bandwidth downloading illegal (or legal) music or videos. That can eat up your bandwidth really quickly. There’s a reason Netflix uses up 20% of bandwidth on the internet. Movie downloads/watching might be using up your internet connection as well.

Memory on Server – I see this issue most often when a clinic tries to re-provision an old server for their new EHR or when they don’t follow the suggested specs of their EHR vendor. It can also happen when you start your EHR with 1 doctor and then grow your practice to 5 doctors. More users usually requires more memory on the server. There are good tools on servers for analyzing how much memory is being used so you’ll know if this is the problem or not.

Hard Disk Space on Server – This definitely shouldn’t happen in a fresh EHR install, but often can happen over time. Servers don’t like to run out of hard disk space and can do all sorts of crazy and unexpected things if they do. Other things that cause a hard disk to run out space might be backups or large log files. I’ve also seen where the IT administrator takes a 500 GB hard drive and divides it into multiple partitions. One partition for the O/S and one partition for the data. Often they misjudge how much to give to one partition versus the other. So, the one partition runs out of space while the other one has TONS of space left.

Good planning and regular maintenance will avoid these issues.

CPU on Server – I believe this is pretty rare these days since memory is usually the bottleneck instead of CPU. However, if the EHR software isn’t written correctly, this could be an issue. Particularly on older boxes.

Complex Workstation Setup – Your IT service provider might have told you all the great benefits of a thin client setup or some sort of virtualized desktop software solution. When done right, these solutions can work fantastic and save you a LOT of money. When done wrong, they can cause you all sorts of slowness and heartache.

EHR Slowness Your EHR Vendor Must Fix
Slow Server Configuration – There are lots of ways to tweak a server to go faster with less resources. Unfortunately, most of these tweaks are likely going to have to come from your EHR vendor. In a larger hospital implementation, you might be able to work with your EHR vendor to implement some of these tweaks. In a small clinic, you’re basically at the mercy of your EHR vendor to configure the server to run fast.

Slow Server (SaaS EHR) – Yes, SaaS EHR vendor servers can go slow too. The good thing is that your EHR vendor likely has monitoring tools that are watching for any slowness so they can proactively fix it. The problem is that then you’re at their mercy to fix the slowness. Needless to say, an EHR vendor’s server support staff rarely feel the end user pain of EHR slowness. At least the pain isn’t nearly as poignant.

Of course, a chorus of calls from EHR users to the EHR support line will help them understand better and fix the slowness. One call about your in house server doesn’t resonate quite as loud.

Slow or Overwhelmed Data Center Connection – Data Center internet connections are generally quite robust and built with a lot of redundancy. However, since data centers usually host many many different systems, they can also get overwhelmed. Sometimes through spikes of traffic, but more often through other nefarious attacks on the systems in the data center. Often, it’s not even your EHR software that’s causing the issue, but it might suffer the consequence. Not very common, but possible.

A little more common could be an EHR vendor that’s growing so rapidly that they can’t keep up with the demand for their EHR software. Other times the EHR vendor just did a poor job planning to expand their EHR data center services.

Poor EHR Code – Not all code is created equal. Some programmers are good at creating code that will execute quickly, but most are not. Fixing speed issues aren’t trivial. Particularly if you have a large code base that’s been created over a long period of time.

Poor EHR Design – The design of an EHR software often determines how fast it work. Designing for speed from the beginning is crucial. Otherwise, a poorly structured EHR can almost never be made fast.

Related to this is EHR software built on old technology. To use a car analogy, you can only make a pinto go so fast without gutting the engine. Too many EHR vendors are built on engines that can only go so fast. They can keep squeezing a bit more speed out of the engine, but eventually you have no other speed benefits because of the legacy technology limitations.

I’m sure there are other possible bottlenecks. Let me know of any I missed in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

EHR Performance Finger Pointing
Another big problem with the complex list above is that it often leads to a bunch of finger pointing. Yes, sometimes it will feel like you’re back in Kindergarten again. Your EHR vendor will point the finger at your IT setup. Your IT service provider will point the finger at the EHR vendor. Then, the EHR vendor will point the finger at the hardware vendor. You’ll never be able to talk to a person at the hardware vendor and so you’ll have to use other tricks to prove it’s not them.

Needless to say the finger pointing can get really tiring really quick. Not to mention it can be very expensive as you spend money proving to your EHR vendor that it really is their problem and not your setup.

I’ll follow up this post with another on how to avoid EHR Performance Issues during the EHR selection process. I’ll link to that post once it’s up.

Side Note: This post was much longer than expected. I guess I did have a lot to say about this issue.

Killer EMR Features According to EMR Vendors

Posted on May 13, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I previously posted a request to hear about the “killer” EMR features that set an EMR vendor’s software apart from the other 400 EMR vendors out there. As expected, some of the people who sent me a message didn’t understand what I mean. However, a few of the responses we’re pretty interesting. I think we’ve barely scratched the surface on EMR features, so please keep submitting your best EMR feature on the contact us page.

Here’s a quick look at three of the responses from EMR vendors. I’ve added strikethroughs when it’s not a killer feature and my commentary is in italics.

First up is SRSSoft‘s killer EMR feature:
The SRS hybrid EMR is a killer EMR, with the prime killer feature being “speed.” Speed is built into the hybrid EMR throughout, and is delivered in three primary ways—click minimization, OpenPath™ technology, and robust messaging.Speed is a killer featuring and an EMR company focusing on speed and calculating clicks makes it a killer feature.

SRS conducts time-motion studies to minimize the number of clicks and the number of seconds it takes for physicians to accomplish their most frequent clinical tasks. For example, a prescription can be written and approved with 2 clicks, and an image can be viewed with only one click. Additionally, the SRS nonproprietary OpenPath™ technology foundation allows the seamless “plug-in” of other applications—physicians can access a myriad of programs containing patient information directly from within the patient chart, without having to waste time toggling back and forth between SRS and other applications.I would have liked to see a list of applications which are already integrated, but an API(Application Interface) in an EMR is a really cool feature.

Furthermore, SRS Messaging automatically attaches the complete patient chart to every message between staff members, which means that when key information is needed to make a quick clinical decision and respond to a message, the information is only one click away.One click access to the patient chart is nice. I wonder how many clicks it takes to tie the message to the chart in the first place.

Speed, Fewer Clicks and an API are definitely killer features of an EMR. I’d be interested to try SRSsoft to see if they can really deliver these features. Regardless, I wish every EMR company was as focused on the number of clicks and the speed of their application. said the following:
Simplicity – Built on the single most widly used small business software in the world (Microsoft Office), XLEMR is as simple as Outlook, Word, and Excel. It’s not uncommon for doc’s to sit down and start using XLEMR with no training…I’d like to see how well a doctor uses this EMR with no training. No doubt office is a familiar application to many. However, I’m surprised how often doctors need to be trained on simple things in Word like saving a file to a specific location. Assuming a doctor can sit down and use it with no training, that’s a killer EMR feature.

Inexpensive – XLEMR works on your old hardware and software you already own. There is no server or database to crash and maintain. There is no dependence on the internet. There is no annual maintenance agreement and because it’s Microsoft you can improve it yourself or hire your nephew…Some might argue that these are all reasons why you should not implement this EMR. For example, there’s some benefits to having a database that anyone can access anywhere you have internet (which is everywhere these days). Not to mention more reliable server hardware compared to desktop hardware. However, this could be a killer EMR feature for certain practices.

Efficient – Chart established patients in 3 minutes including the exam, the orders, the labs, the coding, the note is faxed out to referring physicians, the prescription is faxed or printed or e-prescribed or all of the above, the bililng is done…I had to strike this one out for now. Every EMR vendor makes this claim more or less. I just don’t see that happening for most visits using just Word. I’d love to see some proof of this in a video or something. It also seems to contradict the “no dependence on internet” point above since so many of those things require internet to be done well.

Easy Implementation – Download, Install, Configure, and chart your first patient in 1hr or less…An hour is a seriously short period of time, however, a number of other EMR are claiming 5 minute EMR installs. I personally think that it’s all a bit of marketing spin. There are just far too many customizations people have to make and things people have to learn in order to implement an EMR.

Nice work XLEMR. Simplicity and inexpensive are both really killer features of an EMR. Executing on those two things will make a lot of doctors really happy. I can’t help but wonder what you might be missing as far as reporting and accessibility of records, but that’s not the point of this. The point is to learn about and share killer features that every EMR can try to obtain.

Next up, BennPenn:
Our program, BennPen, is different from most EMR systems because:
1. Our is simple to use. I believe many Drs. who have tried EMRs have rejected them
because they are complicated and difficult to use and the Drs find it takes longer to use
the program than to write the notes as they always have.
This could be a really killer EMR feature, but I’d need to know a specific example of how it’s simpler than other EMR. It’s not just enough to say it’s simple.
2. Our program is customized for each Dr. We load the templates, forms, letters the Doctor
uses into BennPen so he or she continues to chart with the forms they are familiar
with.This is an awesome feature. Many doctors love to chart the way they’re use to charting. I’m sure that many EMR purists will argue that it’s not a real EMR if you don’t capture granular data. However, I think there’s a middle ground that should be considered. Also, what makes this description a killer EMR feature is that the EMR vendor loads the templates for the doctor.
3. The Doctor can use voice, drop-down lists, or a combination of the two. Every EMR vendor can do this, no?
4. Our program is less expensive than many – $3,000 plus $500 for each Dr. over 1 in the
office.I’m always happy to help inform people that the price of EMR doesn’t have to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s what makes lower priced EMR a killer feature.
So, BennPenn added customized EMR templates (loaded by the EMR vendor) and low cost EMR. Two really great features.

I think we’re just barely scratching the surface on what makes an EMR vendor special. Although, maybe the lesson here is that it’s the core features that every EMR claims to offer that makes them special. Maybe I should rephrase the question. Instead of asking about a killer feature, maybe I should be comparing the same feature across multiple EMR systems and highlighting what makes each EMR systems implementation of that feature unique, different and/or better. I’m going to have to think on this one.