Ditching Your EHR: 4 Key Questions

September 8, 2014

When your EHR is no longer working for your practice, it may be time to search for a new product.

Recent surveys, including several Black Book Rankings, show that almost one quarter of medical practices are dissatisfied with their EHR - so dissatisfied that they are considering making a change. If you fall into that 25 percent group, here are some things you might want to think about before you make the break with your current system.

Changing EHR systems is expensive and time consuming, so it's not a decision you want to make without careful consideration. Plenty of things can cause you to want to throw the software - and the computer that's running it - out the window, but a few problems really are worth the investment of starting from scratch. If your software isn't user-friendly or seems to be taking more of your time than you anticipated, you may find that after some practice and training it will seem much friendlier and far less of a hassle. However, if your software is not suited to your type of practice, doesn't have adequate patient safeguards (such as screening for drug interactions), or your vendor has not kept its meaningful use certification current, then it's probably time for a change.

You may also need to change your EHR even if you are satisfied.

"Vendors are discontinuing products lately, and this is a problem that is only going to get worse," said Jeffery Daigrepont, healthcare IT expert and vice president of the Coker Group, a firm of healthcare industry advisers who provide free EHR contract review for practices. "Discontinued software is a time bomb; it is only a matter of time before you won't be able to get upgrades, training, or service contract renewals."

Whatever your reasons for considering a change, Daigrepont suggests asking yourself four key questions before you make the leap:

1. Can the problem be fixed?

You may find that a little help from tech support sets everything right.

2. Is your vendor responsive?

If not, then it's time to move on to one that is.

3. Does your software still meet compliance standards for ICD-10 and meaningful use?

This is a no-brainer. If your vendor hasn't kept up meaningful use certification, you have no choice but to find another.

4. Has your software been discontinued? Or will it be discontinued? Most vendors will support two versions previous to their most current version or product. Be sure you know your vendor's policy for retiring obsolete software.

If you do decide to make a change, Daigrepont stresses the importance of getting version protection in your contract. "For software to stay modern and current, new versions and upgrades are essential and necessary. However, these upgrades should be included in the monthly maintenance fees," he explained. "Having a version protection clause will protect your practice from suddenly having obsolete software and being forced to purchase expenses upgrades."