The number one reason to stay with your current EHR vendor is changing is an "extraordinary disruption," says Charles Rothberg, MD, a Patchogue, New York-based ophthalmologist and president of the Medical Society of the State of New York.
"Those of us who were on another modality [before the EHR] probably still remember working late, not seeing as many patients, and the administrative overhead regarding the conversion to digitizing paper records."
After switching to a new EHR, physicians will be faced again with looking at two different platforms — two different EHRs, in this case — when they're seeing a patient. Even if you can get information from one EHR to the other, information may have been scanned into the new EHR and it's not easy to find, highlights Rothberg.
By far, the greatest cost is the disruption caused to physicians caring for their patients, he says. If a physician reduces their productivity by more than 20 percent because of the transition to a new EHR and the practice's overhead is 20 percent that could turn the practice from being profitable to being not profitable, he adds.
"At least at my practice, part of the overhead is fixed costs, which includes salaries, so reducing productivity and profitability reduces physician income," says Rothberg.
Robert Tennant, director of health information policy at Medical Group Management Association, echoes Rothberg's sentiments regarding the cost to get the data from one EHR to another EHR. "We've talked to practices where in order to move from one EHR to another they literally had to print and re-scan every medical record, because there wasn't an easy way to move the patient data from the old system to the new one. That is a nightmare for most practices," he adds.
Thus, the ease of data migration is going to be a determining factor. "It literally might not be worth the effort," says Tennant.
Practices also need to consider what he calls "the marriage between the EHR and the practice management software." If, for example, a vendor offers an integrated EHR/practice management system, it could be a compelling reason to stay put. That's because the practice may have to invest in interface fees to enable its new EHR to "talk" to its current practice management, if they decide on a new EHR.
Tennant notes that many practices don't realize that their EHR vendor offers a practice management platform. His advice here? Just ask. If the current EHR vendor offers a practice management system that works well with its EHR, it could make the decision to stay an easy one.
That's because an integrated EHR/practice management system from one vendor "can add tremendous automation of the revenue cycle, which leads to greater efficiency and decreased days in [accounts receivable] and a happier staff," he says.