Changing EHRs a Sign of Health IT Evolution, Not of Failure

November 2, 2011

Medical practices are naturally evolving and at least thinking about becoming more sophisticated about their EHR systems.

Last week was the annual MGMA national conference in Las Vegas. As usual, there were hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees. For several days the attendees roamed the exhibit hall and the seminar rooms, catching up on the latest developments in practice management tools.

I have been to many of these national MGMA meetings, as well as many state MGMA association meetings. So I have some perspective on these meetings that stretches across both geography and time.

Dozens of the exhibitors were software vendors, showing their latest EMR/EHR systems. This is not in itself unusual; in fact this has become commonplace at MGMA. However, I thought I detected some things that seemed different than in the past.

It is always common to hear practice managers ask each other - and to hear vendors ask them - “What EHR system are you using?” It was the answers this time that seemed different.

As I engaged conversations with practice managers from around the country, something that seemed new was their answers, “Well, I’m using system XYZ - for now.” It seemed more than ever that practice managers - even those who have already implemented EHRs - are in “look/see” mode.

Some people may interpret this as a sign of failure - indicating that practices now realize they may have made a mistake.

My interpretation is completely different. I feel it is a natural evolution of technology and implementation. Now that many more practices have implemented their first EMR/EHR systems, they have a better understanding of what they want an EHR system to do for their practice. In virtually every other industry segment - transportation, hospitality, financial services, etc. - it is not uncommon for them to change systems after three to five years. As they become more sophisticated users, and are able to understand the capabilities and limitations of their IT/automation systems, they are more able to seek out and select systems that are more suited to their specific way of doing business.

Therefore I see this as a healthy sign - it indicates to me that medical practices are naturally evolving and at least thinking about becoming more sophisticated about their EHR systems. It means they are willing to look at other options to continue to improve the level of automation and efficiency within their practice.

As EHR systems mature and develop, and as practices fine-tune their processes and learn how to use automation more effectively, it is natural for them to look at additional options and solutions - even if it means migrating to a new or different EHR vendor or package.

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