Finding ‘The One’: The EHR You Won’t Want to Swap Out

By Roland Therriault, President, InSync Healthcare Solutions
Twitter: @inSynchcs

In 2018, EHR adoption hit an all-time high of nearly 90 percent. But what the data doesn’t tell us is that many doctors are actually on their third — or even their fourth — EHR, and they’re still unhappy.

The complaints among physicians and clinical staff range in extremes and can seemingly be endless — “It’s too hard to use,” “It’s not compatible with my workflow,” and “It doesn’t help me do my job” are some of the most common we hear in our line of work.

As a 2016 Stanford Medicine report indicates, while physicians see value in EHRs, they mostly believe there’s room for improvements. So, what will it take for these unhappy physicians or physician groups to find the right match?

The answer, we’re learning, isn’t so simple.

Addressing EHR Concerns
Physicians have different reasons for swapping out old EHRs, but most of the time, their complaints stem back to the fact that a given EHR doesn’t adequately support the way they practice medicine. Very often, you’ll hear, “It takes me 20 minutes to document in an EHR what took me five minutes to document on paper.”

Behind this widely-vocalized complaint is that fact the original EHR Incentive Program, rolled out in 2009, didn’t prioritize the physician experience. A $44,000 “carrot” and potential “stick” in the form of a negative Medicare adjustment enticed providers to adopt the technology. Focused on demonstrating the first stage of Meaningful Use, providers tended to be less concerned about interoperability, care coordination or aligning with value-based care ideologies. Similarly, vendors didn’t necessarily design EHRs with universal HL7 specifications. Tasks like exchanging clinical data weren’t seamless experiences.

While Meaningful Use initiated most physicians’ first relationship with EHRs, it was rarely love at first sight. For the large majority of doctors, the first EHRs constituted a learning experience that led to better partnerships the second time around. But for a handful of medical practitioners, the initial EHR experience led to chronic dissatisfaction.

Finding a Match
The EHRs available on the market today are ten times more powerful and robust than the ones that debuted in 2009. Still, there is no one-size-fits-all EHR that works for every physician. Here are five attributes to consider when seeking a perfect match:

  1. Usability. The right EHR makes documentation easier. It isn’t very click-heavy or cumbersome to use and complements physician workflow. It works well with other technologies. Adding new programs (e.g., telemedicine) is a cinch.
  2. Responsiveness. The right EHR is intuitive and supports all clinical workflows. It can easily be tailored to workflow preferences with the help of a supportive vendor.
  3. Regulatory readiness. The right EHR helps physicians achieve regulatory compliance, because it’s built by a vendor possesses understands MACRA, MIPS and any other program CMS rolls out. It supports physicians as they navigate quality improvement initiatives.
  4. Size. The right EHR isn’t always the one made by the big-name EHR vendor with the shiniest booth at the healthcare trade show, which prioritizes hospitals and their big technology budgets first. The right EHR perhaps is one that is tailored to an ambulatory practice’s specific needs (e.g., fewer screens and pop-up menus).
  5. Sophistication. The right EHR is always improving on its previous versions and reflects the highest standards of technological innovation.

Admittedly, choosing the perfect partner isn’t easy — especially in a market that’s saturated with choices. But while finding the right partner — and the right EHR — won’t solve all of a physician’s problems, it will make practicing medicine easier and more enjoyable.