EHR is the Fossil Fuel of Healthcare

Posted on December 13, 2017 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.

Healthcare has become completely dependent on EHR. There’s no getting around it.

In every organization that has an EHR, it’s the center of pretty much every healthcare providers work day. We’ve seen all the studies that talk about how much time doctors spend on the EHR. The problem I have with those studies is they never compare how much time doctors spent doing paper charts to the time they’re now spending on the EHR. However, these studies do also illustrate how integral the EHR has become in healthcare.

Expanding beyond the time spent on an EHR, could a hospital or medical practice get paid without an EHR today? I guess some medical practices still do, but if the EHR were to shut down healthcare organizations would largely stop being able to bill for the services they offer. Healthcare billing is completely dependent on the EHR.

Looking at this in a more positive light, EHR data is also the fuel of so many other exciting healthcare IT initiatives. Clinical decision support is all largely built into the EHR and on the back of EHR data. Much of the personalized medicine that is happening (except genomic medicine) is happening with EHR data. The same goes for population health analysis and all the healthcare analytics that are looking at ways to improve care and lower costs.

Is there any department in healthcare that doesn’t have a dependency on the EHR? I guess the cleaning staff don’t. However, that illustrates how dependent we are on EHR.

We could, of course, talk about whether this is a good or a bad thing for healthcare. I’m torn on this myself. We are completely dependent on the EHR, but it’s also a foundation for much of the innovation that is and will happen in healthcare. Plus, is dependency a problem when the thing you’re depending on is very reliable?

What could help this situation? The only real solution I can see is to create an environment where a healthcare organization could leave their EHR and go to another one if needed. This reduces the dependency and forces the EHR software provider to have to continually innovate so that you don’t want to leave to another vendor.

Unfortunately, we don’t have this in healthcare. In the hospital EHR world, I’m not sure we’ll ever get there. Once you spend $100+ million on an EHR, it’s pretty hard to justify ripping it out and putting in a new one.

What do you think about our dependency on EHR? Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? What can and should we do to make this situation better?