Revenue Cycle Management Blog | GroupOne Health Source

Is 2014 the Year to Switch EHR Systems?

Written by Kaitlyn Houseman | June 24, 2014

With up to 23 percent of physician practices reporting they were trading in their current EHR system for a new brand system in 2013, what will 2014 bring? Eighty-one percent of survey respondents who indicated they were ditching their current systems said they were on track to replace their EHR within the next year; some 11 percent said they were unsure, according to the report.

The pressure to use electronic health record (EHR) software is building for healthcare organizations and most are noticing that the EHR system they installed the first time is not meeting the challenges of today’s healthcare industry.  Some healthcare practices large and small are facing difficulty with improving the quality of care, decreasing costs, and meeting federal and state mandates with the EHR they implemented 1, 2, or even three years ago.

Because most eligible hospitals and healthcare professionals are seeking to receive incentives and avoid penalties from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) must certified EHR technology (CEHRT).  Many hospitals and physicians are also working to improve care by joining or starting accountable care organizations (ACOs) and patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs), which depend on EHR and health IT systems.  While the incentive program and improving care are high priorities for hospitals and healthcare professionals, decreasing costs and increasing return on investment (ROI) is also a highly desirable outcome of using an EHR system.

Many healthcare organization and providers are now struggling with giving up on their first EHR.  Abandoning the system that promised a high ROI can be difficult, but staying with an ineffective EHR system will only continue to cause problems.Another driving factor in switching EHR systems is the development of new EHR solutions and tools that legacy systems cannot offer.

Providers are demanding interoperability and customization as well as mobile device solutions.  EHR users polled in the original Black Book survey had cited numerous cases of software vendors under performing enough to lose crucial market share, with vendor solutions often struggling to keep up.

Because purchasing the first EHR software for the practice required a level of commitment, it can be hard to think about taking the plunge again. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when switching to another EHR system:

  1. Schedule time to discover new vendors 

    Create a team that is responsible for researching vendors. Ask providers in the area what systems they are using and if they have had a good experience with the sales, implementation and support of that system.  Read online reviews and schedule demonstrations to view the software.  Setting a timeline is also helpful to achieving goals with an EHR search and help make a decision in time for your desired go live date with the new EHR software.

  2. Identify Frustrations 

    What items are desirable that your current EHR does not have? Have the entire practice keep a post it pad handy at all times leading up to the new purchase of a new EHR system.  This way the day-to-day tasks that are not there for front and back office staff and providers can be brought up in the decision making process.  Ask potential vendors to demonstrate how these items can be performed in their software.

  3. Make a list of items the Current EHR does well 

    What was it about the current EHR that was liked the most?  Ask potential vendors to demonstrate how these key features can be performed in their EHR software.

  4. Budget for the change

    With only six months left of 2014, there may be little time to budget in the price of change. Ask potential vendors about finance options but also understand the money spent on the EHR system that is currently being used will be a sunk cost. The cost paid for that system cannot be recovered however it should not keep the practice from finding a better performing EHR system.

  5. Don’t make the same mistakes

    Be sure to ask about hidden fees or fees not included in the quote. Remember  the items that were a surprise cost with the last EHR. Lab Interfaces or Device Integrations are typically a surprise cost further down the road. Avoid any surprises not just for financial reasons but also for the timeliness of the project.

  6. Schedule a time with all employees and providers for implementation and training

    Be sure everyone is in the office and on board with the switch. It will take some work and time from everyone to make the switch successful. Everyone needs to understand how the new software with change workflow or how to get the information in the system.

  7. Don’t forget the technical aspect

    A large portion of EHR failures will happen because the practice tries to cut corners with IT resources. The network and hardware must function with the new software and an experienced IT professional can make sure this is in order.  Including IT resources on the project from the beginning will speed up the implementation process.

  8. Prepare for data migration

    When considering migrating data from the existing EHR to the new EHR determine what is necessary to be done automatically vs. manually.  Does the price of data migration justify not having to input all of the data into the new EHR?  Make a list of what needs to be migrated before using the new EHR. Also identify what can be put into the software by practice employees manually.