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Seven Signs It's Time to Switch EHRs


On the fence about finding a new EHR for your medical practice? Here are seven signs that it may be time to ditch your current system for a new one.

Nothing is worse than being stuck with a crucial piece of software in your medical practice that you absolutely hate. A Black Book Rankings report  found that 35 percent of medical professionals report being unsatisfied with their current system and nearly one in three medical providers want to switch.

If you're on the fence about finding a new EHR system, here are seven signs that it's time to look elsewhere.

1. You still wish you were back on paper.

There may be certain things you miss about the old manila folders, but if you haven't gone a day without feeling nostalgic for pen and paper, there's probably something wrong. You should have come to appreciate instantly searching a patient's record, sending e-prescriptions, and the many other convenient shortcuts EHRs can provide. That is, if they are actually convenient.

2. Your EHR isn't going to be certified for the Stage 2 rules of meaningful use on time.

An estimated 90 percent of EHR vendors aren't going to be ready for meaningful use by January 2014, according to HHS. While certification is especially important if you adopted your EHR to earn incentives, it is a telling sign even if you aren't thinking about meaningful use. An EHR system that doesn't have the resources to update their product and get certified may not be around in a few years' time. Black Book Rankings found that 88 percent of consultants and analysts believe that most EHR vendors will be gone by the Stage 3 rules of meaningful use in 2017.

3. You've already paid thousands and you're still discovering new fees.

Nickel and diming among EHR vendors is still extremely common. Though we're a very long way from the days when a five-digit price tag was the norm for a new EHR system, many cheaper systems compensate by laying on the fees for additional features. Watch out for expensive fees around upgrades for the Stage 2 rules of meaningful use  in particular. But EHR doesn't have to be a synonym for sneaky. Check out the recent KLAS 2013 Ambulatory EMR Performance Report, which ranked EHRs by their "money's worth" and included a category for "doesn't nickel and dime."

4. You dread calling customer support.

Good vendors provide good service. A common complaint among EHR users is the low quality of customer support, which in turn makes it harder for providers and staff to get started with the new system. You shouldn't have trouble getting a hold of a real person quickly and getting your questions answered. If you do, it's probably making the rest of your bad EHR experience even worse.

5. Your EHR has stagnated.

Your EHR should be adding new features every few weeks - and those features should also be improving the way you use your EHR everyday. If you've been stuck with a work flow that has nagged you from the beginning, it's unlikely your experience is going to get better in the future. Look for a web-based EHR for your next system to make receiving upgrades to the technology a seamless experience.

6. It doesn't fit your practice's needs.

Black Book Rankings reported that 79 percent of switching providers felt their EHR solution didn't meet the individual needs of their practice and work flow. This is particularly common among small practices - a full 54 percent of whom said that the EHR didn't feel like it was designed for them. If you fall into this category, sticking with your system is only going to keep your practice behind. Look for a new EHR system that offers easy customization features that you can implement without the help of a consultant.

7. You simply hate your EHR.

When it comes down to it, if you don't like it, you don't like it. Don't throw any good money after bad with a system that isn't working for your practice. EHR technology is relatively new, and like early computers and cellphones, it is evolving rapidly. The past few years have brought much more modern options - and it may be time you gave them a look.

If the items on this list ring true at your medical practice, it's time to make the switch. Do your research with independent organizations like Black Book Rankings that measure the performance of EHR systems across thousands of real medical practices. You should also demand to a test drive with any new system you're considering - don't just take a salesperson's word for it. By making the switch now, before meaningful use in 2014 begins, your practice can be set up with a stress-free system for earning incentives in the New Year.

Michael Wilson is director of inside sales at Practice Fusion, provider of free EHR systems. Before joining Practice Fusion, Wilson worked with ACTIVE Network and Care Rehab and Orthopaedic Products. He is passionate about improving healthcare and is an avid supporter of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. E-mail him here.

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