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Is It Time to Leave Your Old EHR Behind? Take the EMR Replacement Test

Is It Time to Leave Your Old EHR Behind?
In a recent letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association, physicians described the unrealized potential of EHR technology and their colleagues’ general unhappiness with these systems.

“There is building resentment against the shackles of the present EHR; every additional click inflicts a nick on physicians’ morale. Current records miss opportunities to harness available data and predictive analytics to individualize treatment. Meanwhile, sophisticated advances in technology are going untapped,” they wrote.

Is it time to separate your practice from your current software? Many practices are re-evaluating their systems, some of which have been in place long before Meaningful Use. This series will explore the process of making the switch.

Let’s start with reasons for switching. The transition may be driven by changing needs in your practice, such as added specialties, office mergers, or ownership changes. Other reasons include software company mergers, product sun-setting, and lack of vendor progress.

Customer dissatisfaction is a major reason for changing vendors. Perhaps the software requires regular upgrades, is too high-maintenance for the practice, and becomes a nuisance rather than an asset. Maybe the level of service from your vendor is unacceptable. The American Academy of Family Physicians Family Practice Management Journal reported that doctors are often forced to switch electronic health records (EHRs) for business reasons, not clinical ones.

Burnout common. Functionality lacking
If you’re wondering if there are better EHRs out there, you’re part of a growing crowd. Physicians are seeking respite from checking boxes and clicking through pages. Medical associations attribute increasing levels of physician burnout to the often-clerical demands of EHR use, whether the patient is in the office for a physical, a follow-up, or treatment for chronic disease.

In one study published last year, the most common reason for changing EHRs was to gain functionality. More than 20% of respondents in the study, who had switched from one EHR to another in 2010 or later, made the switch to get a cloud-based system.

The respondents had purchased an EHR from one of 73 companies, but the EHRs they switched to were from one of 43 firms, indicating there has been consolidation in the marketplace. Twenty-five EHR systems accounted for 82% of respondents’ prior EHRs. However, among the new EHRs, only 11 systems accounted for 82%.

In some situations, doing nothing is an option. The advantage of keeping an EHR you’re less than thrilled with is that you needn’t go through the arduous process of changing EHRs—which can be an expensive and time-consuming project. Even when an EHR replacement is successful, it might not lead to a better electronic record experience or higher productivity. Only 39% of survey respondents in one study said they were happy with their new EHR once they made the switch.

Take the EMR Replacement Test
One way to determine if it’s time for a change at your practice is to discover which physicians (if any) can use the EHR with no trouble. If more than half can use the software with some success, then the EHR might not be the problem—and other clinicians may need to take some time to learn how to use the system more efficiently.

If the physician use test isn’t producing a clear “yes” or “no” answer regarding an EHR switch, it might be helpful to get some answers to these questions:

  1. Do you wish your system were based on paper?
  2. Are you still discovering new software fees?
  3. Do you put off contacting customer service because you’re never treated like a customer or given actual service?
  4. Has your current EHR kept up with your practice’s needs?
  5. Will your EHR be able to adapt to your practice’s future?
  6. Is it secure? Your EHR system must comply with administrative and technical safeguards to ensure the privacy and security of your patients.
  7. Do you have the resources to switch systems? Developing, implementing, and maintaining EHRs requires adequate funds and the involvement of many individuals, including clinicians.

The answers might be enough to help you figure out whether your practice should take the plunge and switch EHRs. Our next installment will explore the considerations necessary for a smooth transition process.

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