Before a practice decides to break up with their current EHR vendor, they have a lot of questions to ask, says Robert Tennant, director of health information policy at the Medical Group Management Association.
There are many "environmental challenges" facing practices that could make them decide to leave their current vendor, he adds. "The environment is changing. We're morphing away from Meaningful Use….While the Medicaid program will continue, the Medicare program is now over and has been folded into what's called the Advancing Care Information component of the Quality Payment Program."
Here are six reasons to leave your current EHR vendor:
1. If your current vendor doesn't plan to recertify to the 2015 edition, it could be a good reason to pursue a different EHR vendor that is making that change, says Tennant. While CMS' decision to allow physicians to use the 2014 certification for the 2018 calendar year buys practices a year before they need physicians on a 2015 certified EHR, making this change sends a signal that the vendor is making proactive investments in their platform.
Tennant says practices should press vendors on when they'll make this investment. "Will it be available in the first quarter of 2018, in the second quarter, in the third quarter?"
2. The financial stability of your EHR vendor is of prime importance, says Tennant. "Did the company spring up quickly? Is it or is it not generating a lot of sales? Will the company be able to continue to support your product?" If not, he advises practices to consider a vendor that has more of a national footprint.
3. Also consider the importance of support and the ability to customize the EHR. Support is critical and, if the practice is looking to bring on subspecialists, the EHR needs to be customizable to meet their needs. "If you've got an orthopedic practice that wants to bring in wrist and hand specialists, those templates must be developed for the EHR. Are they easy to do? Are they impossible?"
4. The practice also needs to decide if it wants to focus on patient engagement. If the answer is yes, Tennant recommends asking the current vendor what patient engagement capabilities it offers. If they don't offer a patient portal and suggest that you use a third-party platform, it could be a reason to switch vendors.
Other patient portal-related questions to ask include:
• Does the patient portal allow patients to view their test results and their patient record?
• Do they want to allow patients to schedule appointments online and request medication refills?
• Does the practice want to allow patients to ask clinicians questions via the patient portal?
5. Security is yet another area where practices should ask vendors about their capabilities, according to Tennant, who notes that this is a growing area of concern for practices. "A breach of security — including a ransomware attack, for example — could devastate the practice. It could literally put them out of business. So what level of security does the EHR offer? What types of security does it offer for the [computer] terminals and what about mobile or remote access for clinicians?"
6. Since practices are increasingly engaging in value-based care contracts with payers, communicating with other healthcare providers is vital. That's why practices need to assess whether their current vendor can help support interoperability between their EHR and local health information exchanges, in addition to local hospital EHR systems, he says.
If your current vendor doesn't support these capabilities, switching to another vendor may be appropriate, according to Tennant, but first practices need to dig deep and ask a lot of questions.