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Has Electronic Health Record Replacement Failed?

Posted on June 23, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Justin Campbell, Vice President, Galen Healthcare.
Justin Campbell
A recent Black Book survey of hospital executives and IT employees who have replaced their Electronic Health Record system in the past three years paints a grim picture. Respondents report higher than expected costs, layoffs, declining revenues, disenfranchised clinicians and serious misgivings about the benefits of switching systems. Specifically:

  • 14% of all hospitals that replaced their original EHR since 2011 were losing inpatient revenue at a pace that wouldn’t support the total cost of their replacement EHR
  • 87% of hospitals facing financial challenges now regret the decision to change systems
  • 63% of executive level respondents admitted they feared losing their jobs as a result of the EHR replacement process
  • 66% of system users believe that interoperability and patient data exchange functionality have declined

Surely, this was not the outcome expected when hospitals rushed to replace paper records in response to Congressional incentives (and penalties) included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But the disappointment reflected in this survey only sheds light on part of the story. The majority of hospitals depicted here were already in financial difficulty. It is understandable that they felt impelled to make a significant change and to do so as quickly as possible. But installing an electronic record system, or replacing one that is antiquated, requires much more than a decision to do so. We should not be surprised that a complex undertaking like this would be burdened by complicated and confusing challenges, chief among which turned out to be “usability” and acceptance.

Another Black Book report, this one from 2013, revealed:

  • 66% of doctors using EHR systems did not do so willingly
  • 87% of those unwilling to use the system claimed usability as their primary complaint
  • 84% of physician groups chose their EHR to reach meaningful use incentives
  • 92% of practices described their EHR as “clunky” and/or difficult to use

None of this should surprise us but we need to ask: was usability really the key driver for EHR replacement? Is usability alone accountable for lost revenue, employment anxiety and buyers’ remorse? Surely organizations would not have dumped millions into failed EHR implementations only to rip-and-replace them due to usability problems and provider dissatisfaction. Indeed, despite the persistence of functional obstacles such as outdated technology, hospitals continue to make new EMR purchases. Maybe the “reason for the rip-and-replace approach by some hospitals is to reach interoperability between inpatient and outpatient data,” wrote Dr. Donald Voltz, MD in EMR and EHR.

Interoperability is linked to another one of the main drivers of EHR replacement: the mission to support value-based care, that is, to improve the delivery of care by streamlining operations and facilitating the exchange of health information between a hospital’s own providers and the caregivers at other hospitals or health facilities. This can be almost impossible to achieve if hospitals have legacy systems that include multiple and non-communicative EHRs.

As explained by Chief Nurse Executive Gail Carlson, in an article for Modern Healthcare, “Interoperability between EHRs has become crucial for their successful integration of operations – and sometimes requires dumping legacy systems that can’t talk to each other.

Many hospitals have numerous ancillary services, each with their own programs. The EHRs are often “best of breed.” That means they employ highly specialized software that provides excellent service in specific areas such as emergency departments, obstetrics or lab work. But communication between these departments is compromised because they display data differently.

In order to judge EHR replacement outcomes objectively, one needs to not just examine the near-term financials and sentiment (admittedly, replacement causes disruption and is not easy), but to also take a holistic view of the impact to the system’s portfolio by way of simplification and future positioning for value-based care. The majority of the negative sentiment and disappointing outcomes may actually stem from the migration and new system implementation process in and of itself. Many groups likely underestimated the scope of the undertaking and compromised new system adoption through a lackluster migration.

Not everyone plunged into the replacement frenzy. Some pursued a solution such as dBMotion to foster care for patients via intercommunications across all care venues. In fact, Allscripts acquired dBMotion to solve for interoperability between its inpatient solution (Eclipsys SCM) and its outpatient EMR offering (Touchworks). dBMotion provides a solution for those organizations with different inpatient and outpatient vendors, offering semantic interoperability, vocabulary management, EMPI and ultimately facilitating a true community-based record.

Yet others chose to optimize what they had, driven by financial constraints. There is a thin line separating EHR replacement from EHR optimization. This is especially true for those HCOs that are neither large enough nor sufficiently funded to be able to afford a replacement; they are instead forced to squeeze out the most value they can from their current investment.

The optimization path is much more pronounced with MEDITECH clients, where a large percentage of their base remains on the legacy MAGIC and C/S platforms.

Denni McColm, a hospital CIO, told healthsystemCIO why many MEDITECH clients are watching and waiting before they commit to a more advanced platform:

“We’re on MEDITECH’s Client/Server version, which is not their older version and not their newest version, and we have it implemented really everywhere that MEDITECH serves. So we have the hospital systems, home care, long-term care, emergency services, surgical center — all the way across the continuum. We plan to go to their latest version sometime in the next few years to get the ambulatory interface for the providers. It should be very efficient — reduced clicks, it’s mobile friendly, and our docs are anxious to move to it,” but we’ll decide when the time is right, she says.

What can we discern from these different approaches and studies?  It’s too early to be sure of the final score. One thing is certain though: the migrations and archival underpinnings of system replacement are essential. They allow the replacement to deliver on the promise of improved usability, enhanced interoperability and take us closer to the goal of value-based care.

About Justin Campbell
Justin is Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions. He is responsible for market intelligence, segmentation, business and market development and competitive strategy. Justin has been consulting in Health IT for over 10 years, guiding clients in the implementation, integration and optimization of clinical systems. He has been on the front lines of system replacement and data migration and is passionate about advancing interoperability in healthcare and harnessing analytical insights to realize improvements in patient care. Justin can be found on Twitter at @TJustinCampbell

Thinking About Future EHR Switching When Purchasing EHR Software

Posted on February 24, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

When we start purchasing our EHR, many times we don’t spend enough time thinking about what happens when we reach the end of life for the software we’re purchasing. I was particularly reminded of this when writing my post about the legacy EHR ticking time bombs. During our EHR or other healthcare IT software purchase, we don’t think about 5, 10, 15 years down the road when we might want to switch systems. What happens at the end of a system’s life is not our concern during an EHR purchase, but it should be.

A lot of people like to talk about EHR data portability. This is a very important subject when you’re looking to sunset an old system. However, if you haven’t put the right items in your EHR contract, it becomes a major issue for you to get that data out of the EHR. If you haven’t read the section on EHR contracts in my now somewhat dated EMR selection e-Book, take some time to read it over and check out your EHR contract.

When you can’t get the data out of your EHR, then you’re stuck in a situation that I described in my legacy EHR ticking time bomb post. You limp your legacy EHR system along and have issues with updates, fear the lost of the system completely, and much more. It’s just an ugly situation.

It’s nice to think that an EHR system will just work forever, but technology changes. It’s just the reality of life. I’m interested to see if the concept of an EHR vendor neutral archive will really take off. That would be one major way to combat this. However, I think many are afraid of this option because it’s tough to preserve the granular data elements in the EHR. Plus, it takes a forward thinking CIO to be able to make the investment in it. Although I’ve met some that are doing just this.

What has your organization done to prepare for the day that you’ll sunset your EHR or other healthcare IT systems? Is this a concern for you? Or are you like some CIOs who figure that it will be someone else’s problem?

2012 EHR and Health IT Noise

Posted on January 6, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. 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 have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed going through and making lists looking back on EMR and Health IT in 2011 and thinking about what is going to happen in EMR and Health IT in 2012. Thanks for everyone who has joined and added to the discussion. It’s been really great!

This next list might actually be the hardest one for me to create. I call it the 2012 EHR and Health IT Noise. You know what I’m talking about. The topics that are going to get talked to death, tweeted everywhere, but won’t really have any major impact on healthcare (at least in 2012). Some would call these distractions.

HIE – Yes, we’re going to hear more and more about HIE’s and their potential. 2012 will still enjoy all that federal grant money that was given to HIE’s. What will we see from it? Maybe a couple books describing lessons learned from all the money spent on trying to set up an HIE. If one or two HIE’s are successful and start sharing patient data with doctors I’ll be really impressed.

EHR Usability – In 2012 I predict we’re going to hear story after story about the lack of usability with EHR software. The complaints will start to pile up, but I don’t think any of that noise will do much to shift the usability of EHR software. It’s a really hard task to dramatically shift the usability of EHR software after the fact. I can’t see many of the legacy EHR accomplishing that shift.

Some new EMR startups may start to come into their own in 2012 with usable EHR software, but they likely won’t be heard above the noise of the other legacy EHR software that’s practically unusable. We’re in a selling spree cycle for EHR software, maybe 2013 will change that.

Mobile Health Apps – This is a little different noise than the others above. This will be noise because there will be so many mobile health apps out there in 2012 and none of them will really consolidate market share yet. I believe that a number of mobile health apps will start to differentiate themselves in 2012, but most people won’t know the difference. They’ll just hear all the noise and try and ignore it.

Meaningful Use – Oh wait, I already wrote about that one here. If you haven’t read the comments of that post, you should. Some good discussion.

Any other things you think will make noise in EMR and Health IT in 2012? I’d love to hear your additions.

Common EMR Implementation Issue – EHR Performance Issues

Posted on August 24, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. 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.

Exposing the Jabba the Hutt EHRs and Finding the Han Solo EHRs

Posted on June 21, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. 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’ve had some interesting reactions to my post about the various characteristics of a Jabba the Hutt EHR Vendor. One of the more interesting conversations happened by email with a reader named Richard. Yes, I have lots of interesting back channel discussions.

After a lengthy email exchange, I asked Richard if I could post our discussion on the blog so you could participate as well. He agreed and even commented, “I look forward to an expansion of our discussion.” So, here you go (or at least scroll to the bottom for a short summary of my feelings).

The conversation started with this email that Richard sent me:

I understand your reluctance to name names in your article, BUT… this is exactly what is needed.

I’ve taken a few days to ruminate over what I was going to suggest and I’d like to hear your thoughts on this if you have time.

With your readership, I suspect there are plenty of users and observers of current packages and lots of opinions. Why not set up something like a Wiki-EMR site to provide a resource that will allow everyone to provide input into the details making “Jabba” and “Han Solo” EMR systems and see where it goes? Maybe it could eliminate some of the BS surrounding some of these systems and help others who are trying to sort out there own future needs. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who want, need and are willing to provide information on the state and future of EMR and what is BS and what isn’t. I certainly would. Let me know your (or your readers) thoughts.

Richard

Here was my response:

Hi Richard,
Yes, this is something I’ve thought a lot about. The key question for me is how to publish some sort of “authenticated” information. Most systems are so easily gamed and/or abused that they basically have no worth. I haven’t figured out a scalable way to be able to provide information that is actual data and not provided with undue influence.

As I read your email, I wondered if some sort of combination of LinkedIn might be the key. At least then any review that’s done would be tied to an individual. Although, by doing so, you’d then discourage many of the most interesting reviews and feedback because their name would be explicitly tied to the review.

Along these same lines I’ve wondered how I could provide a “Meaningful EHR Certification” that wasn’t based on a pass/fail system that has no value. Instead it was a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data that would actually be of value to the reader. Scaling that up is the challenge I have with that idea. Not to mention figuring out the right financial model for it.

So, as you can see I’m with you on wanting more specific information out there, but not sure how to overcome the abuse and the scale that you need for it to be valuable.

As a side note, I do have a wiki page: http://emrandhipaa.com/wiki/Main_Page and it even has an EMR and EHR Matrix of companies. Although I closed registrations since spammers were getting into it.

Richard then provided this response:

It seems to me that user editing must be do-able if Wikipedia has found a way. Additionally, I think that unvarnished truth through comments creditable or not (but differentiateable ) would be a place for insiders or knowledgeable users and IT pros to vent. I realize that it is open to abuse, but a user moderated (or whatever Wikipedia uses) forum will turn upon such miscreants and their abuse might well backfire. I realize it is quite a project, but I’ll bet there are a handful of your readers, if not many more, that would gladly help put something this critical in place. If this can be pulled off, it might create “the world’s foremost authority” * in EMR.

I don’t know much at all about this, but I have a feeling that so much is riding on all of this and that there is a vacuum of useful, meaningful and understandable information that is needed to make this whole thing work. I know there must be something prescient sounding I could offer here, but it might be just indigestion that’s giving me this feeling. John, there must be some other smart guys around; try to round up some and see what they think.

Then I offered this response which shows I’ve been on Wikipedia far too much:

I’ve been rolling around something like this since I first started blogging about EMR. Wikipedia’s a bad comparison because it tries to formulate 1 truth instead of a series of opinions about something. Plus, Wikipedia relies on the masses of people (we don’t have enough mass) and even they get to a point where they regularly lock pages after abuse happens. Wikipedia’s a crazy community once you get into it. There are flame wars and battles on Wikipedia that rage in the background that most people don’t realize are happening.

Travel and hotel sites are a better comparison actually. Since reviews of hotels are more similar to a review of an EMR. The hotel owner wants to put the best reviews on there and can plant good reviews amongst many other ways to game the ratings and review systems. I read an interesting story about how Trip Advisor tried to deal with this. Unfortunately, it put on the image of successfully battling it, but didn’t do that well. Matters much less when you’re talking about a hotel versus an EMR.

I agree that it could become the authority on EMR software if it’s done right. Although, for me to do it, I have to find a model that’s authentic, honest, reliable, scalable and that makes sense economically. At least until I sell off a company for a few million. Then, maybe I can cut out the economical requirement.

Then Richard commented:

I didn’t realize that abuse was that rampant and that a fix was so difficult. I think I see some of the problems. You almost need a cadre of “fair witnesses” to explore the opinions and observations of users and provide incorruptible analysis. Not a promising outlook.

I’d be happy to assist this enterprise in any way I can, but don’t think I would bring anything very useful to the table. I feel you may be the right person to bring something like this to fruition, but the resources needed may be out of reach. It’s too bad there isn’t a Consumer Reports -like group out there for something like this. Maybe some group has enough vested in the outcome of shake-out to fund independent assessment and provide a forum for users.

I know very little about the technology involved in EMR, I am more aware of the medical business and needs for improvement in record and information management. Additionally, if cost containment can’t be managed and a “best practices” can’t be incorporated into every patient’s care then our society may be doomed economically (even morally). You’re doing something valuable, so keep it up, there must be a way to sort out the players and the technology so we can get on with the real need which is getting something useful and beneficial installed for quality patient care. Even getting this discussion broadened is worthwhile.

Well, there you go. If you made it through that, then you must really care about EHR and healthcare IT like I do.

In summary, I think it’s quite clear that it’s an incredible challenge for those searching for EHR software to find reliable information. The need for good EHR vendor information is extraordinary and no one has cornered that market…yet? There is no “consumer reports” for EHR software.

I haven’t yet identified a model that’s authentic, honest, reliable, scalable and that makes sense economically to deliver said “consumer reports for EHR software.” (or maybe I’m just too lazy, scared, busy, etc to try)

I do think that this site and the other members of the Healthcare Scene blog network provide a valuable independent resource for those selecting and implementing an EMR. My free EHR selection e-book was one effort to help providers in the EHR selection process in a very targeted way.

Are there other things that I (we) could do to help even more? I’m sure. If you have ideas, I’m interested to hear. You see my off the top of my head criteria above.

If nothing else, we can reach Richard’s goal of “broadening the discussion”

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if….

Posted on June 7, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. 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 long time readers of EMR and HIPAA will know I like to call big, bulky, old EMR software systems, Jabba the Hutt EMR. I think comparing these old legacy EMR software to Jabba the Hutt is a great comparison. For those that don’t know Star Wars that well (and I’m no expert), Jabba the Hutt was a very powerful figure. Although, over time he’d grown so big that he wasn’t very nimble (to say the least). So, despite his power and prestige, there was little to admire about him.

Does that sound a bit like some legacy EMR software? They’re big and powerful figures in the industry. However, their software has grown to the point that it’s clunky and not very nimble. Getting something changed on it is difficult and it’s built on a platform that makes it hard to add new features. Thus, they are Jabba the Hutt EMR.

Without naming names, here’s a list of things that will help you identify the Jabba the Hutt EMR software.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
your interface looks like it’s from the 80’s.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
you use a non SQL database.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
you’re better at marketing than programming.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
you cludged together your PMS that you bought from someone else.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
your interface looks more like DOS than Windows.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
your diagnosis description is restricted to 50 characters.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
your EMR salespeople don’t know your EMR developers who don’t know your EMR customer service people.

You might be a Jabba the Hutt EMR if…
iPad interface….what’s that?

I think it’s worth noting that having one or two of these things doesn’t absolutely mean an EMR vendor is a Jabba the Hutt EMR vendor. Although, the more of the above characteristics an EMR vendor has, the more you should look into it.

I hope others will add to this list in the comments.