Why One Doctor Switched EMRs

Posted on August 29, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Over the last several months, we’ve been flooded with statistics spelling out the reasons why doctors are choosing to dump their current EMR and invest in a new one and we’ve been writing about switching EMR for a while.  To bring some perspective to this discussion, I’ve reached out to physicians who have made the Big Switch and attempted to learn a bit about why they chose to move from one EMR to another.

Today, I bring you Dr. Christy Valentine, a New Orleans-based physician practicing internal medicine and pediatrics. Dr. Valentine operates a small practice consisting of herself and a nurse practitioner.

Back in 2007, as part of opening her own practice, Dr. Valentine decided to invest in an EMR from a company better known for hospital systems. (She’s asked me not to name the vendor — let’s call them Vendor X.) Having seen generations of paper medical records wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, she was eager to go digital and enjoy the peace of mind that backup storage offers.

Dr. Valentine looked at several EMRs but was most interested in Vendor X’s product, which was in use at the local academic medical center and under consideration by couple of major health systems in her area. “I felt I’d have a better chance of hiring people who were familiar with the technology,” Dr. Valentine recalls. “Being a small practice we really wanted to save time training individuals on the computer system.”

Dr. Valentine had purchased not only Vendor X’s EMR but also the billing system that went with it. She soon came to regret that choice, however. For one thing,, she said, Vendor X was slow to respond to customer service requests; she and her staff had to leave a message and wait for a response which sometimes never came.

Perhaps even worse, despite investing years in trying to make things right, the practice management system was a wash-out. “I had to scrap it completely and move to an outside billing service because it wouldn’t work for our practice,” Dr. Valentine said. And to top things off, the system never got easier to use despite Dr. Valentine’s sincere efforts to make things work.

In retrospect, she feels that her practice should have gone with a vendor that focuses on practices her size, she says. “I learned that you if you go for a vendors whose big fish is the hospital, you won’t be important to the vendor,” she said.

About a year ago, Dr. Valentine decided once and for all to dump Vendor X, largely because she was opening her second office and didn’t want to bring Vendor X over. Instead, her practice  brought up athenahealth’s EMR and practice management system a few months ago

Dr. Valentine has been happy ever since. She’s very pleased with the athenahealth customer service and finds the product easy to use. She feels that her system, unlike the old one, is easy to use and to customize with specialized templates. Even better, she feels ready to steam into Meaningful Use Stage 3 with athena as a partner.  “As soon as they tell us what they need we’ll be ready to jump right into it,” Dr. Valentine says.