One great venue for discussing "wish list" items with your EHR vendor is their user conference, says Michael Lee, a pediatrician at Newton, Mass.-based health system, Atrius Health. Still, you have to realize that it can take between 12 to 18 months to have changes implemented. It can take the vendor nine to 12 months to build and test new features, and then it typically requires the practice about six to nine months to install them into production.
At the top of Lee's list is improving the user experience to make it easier for physicians to find what they're looking for in the EHR. "That's not just navigation," he says. "It's the fact that buttons aren't always in the same place in the EHR. That's because the current version is a transition [between] old and new versions of the software.
"It can be very frustrating as a clinical user trying to do a chart review or check lab or imaging results or [review] scanned in documents. What that requires today is a 'hodge podge' of hunting around in the EHR," says Lee.
Derek Kosiorek, principal consultant with the Medical Group Management Association's Healthcare Consulting Group, echoes the need for EHR vendors to focus on user experience and would like to see vendors move toward browser-based interfaces. "What physicians need is a cleaner interface to the system. With a cloud-based system [in particular], it's just easier to navigate."
A physician wants information when they want it — and, with a browser-based EHR, it's often easier to get that information, says Kosiorek.
In addition, since practices are increasingly getting involved in value-based care arrangements with insurance companies and CMS, they're also responsible for managing the health of whole populations of patients, says Lee. "EHR vendors need to make this easier for small and large practices. Small practices, in particular, don't have the overhead dollars to train or hire people to do this population health work."
His challenge to EHR vendors? Make it easier for practices to manage groups of patients without adding a tremendous effort. That's going to be a "huge challenge in 2017," says Lee.
Kosiorek also highlights that vendors need to secure 2015 CMS certification for their EHRs. And that's particularly relevant as 2017 kicks off, since the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) will soon require practices to use EHRs with 2015 certification.
Very few vendors right now have 2015 certification, he notes. But practices will need to upgrade to a 2015-certified EHR before the end of 2017.