I recently had a chance to talk with Sean West, VP & GM of HealthPort Data Conversion Services, about the hot topic of EMR switching (or EHR switching if you prefer). I’ve written about EMR switching many times before and even predicted it would be a hot topic a year or two ago. I assure you that it is going to become and even more important topic going forward.
During my discussion with Sean, I took note of a number of drivers behind all the EMR switching. Here’s what I consider to be the top three drivers:
Hospital Acquisition – I’ve written regularly about the trend of hospitals acquiring ambulatory practices and hospitals acquiring or merging with other hospitals. In one hospital system, I found that they were moving newly acquired practices onto the hospital EHR before they even moved their existing practices from paper to the hospital EHR. In many cases the acquired practices already had an EHR and so they had to make an EHR data conversion plan. Most current hospital acquisitions or mergers are also moving to one unified EHR software system. I could see this changing as larger more established hospitals are acquired, but right now these hospital acquisitions are driving a lot of EMR switching.
EMR User Dissatisfaction – There’s a broad range of EMR user dissatisfaction that prompts an EMR switch. Sometimes the healthcare organization is on a legacy EMR system that’s no longer being updated and so the user experience suffers. Other times we are talking about a newly implemented EMR system which doesn’t live up to the users expectations.
Not Meaningful Use Ready – The other large driver of EMR switching is when an EMR vendor isn’t or won’t be ready for meaningful use. The EHR incentive money and EHR penalties are a powerful incentive for many healthcare organizations. If an organization’s current EHR system isn’t ready for meaningful use, many have no choice but to switch EMR.
Of course, EMR switching can be a real challenge and every EMR switch is unique. You have to consider what you want to do with your old data. Do you have a way to transfer it to the new EMR? Can you get the EMR data out of the old system? Do you want to transfer all or part of the data? Do you not want to transfer the data to the new EMR, but you still want to keep the old EMR around to access the previous EMR data?
Many of the answers to these questions are heavily influenced by your original EMR contract. Sadly, many organizations did a poor job evaluating their EMR contract before they signed it. This can often lead to the old EHR vendor holding the EHR data hostage. It’s not pretty, but there are sometimes workarounds. Just be sure that you don’t make the same mistake with your new EHR vendor. My e-Book on EHR selection has a whole section on EHR contracts (starts on page 30) that you should consider.
EMR switching is never a fun experience, but it’s often a necessary evil. Plus, it’s going to continue to become more and more common. In fact, the next wave of EMR switching might be driven by EMR consolidation.