I’ve long been a proponent of the role of specialty specific EHRs. In fact, at one point I suggested that a really great EHR company could be a roll up of the top specialty specific EHRs. I still think this would be an extraordinary company that could really compete with the top EHR vendors out there. For now, I haven’t seen anyone take that strategy.
There are just some really compelling reasons to focus your EHR on a specific specialty. In fact, what you find is that even the EHR vendor that claims to support every medical specialty is usually best fit for one or a couple specific specialties. Just ask for their client list and you’ll have a good idea of which specialty likes their system the most.
I was recently talking with a specialty EHR vendor and they made a good case for why specialists love working with them. The obvious one he didn’t mention was that the EHR functions are tailored to that specialty. Everyone sees and understands this.
What most people don’t think about is when they talk to the support or sales people at that company. This is particularly important with the support people. It’s a very different experience calling an EHR vendor call center that supports every medical specialty from one that supports only your specialty. They understand your specialties unique needs, terminology, and language. Plus, any reference clients they give you are going to be in your specialty so you can compare apples to apples.
Certainly there can be weaknesses in a specialty specific EHR. For example, if you’re in a large multi specialty organization you really can’t go with a specialty specific EHR. It’s just not going to happen. With so many practices being acquired by hospitals, this does put the specialty specific EHR at risk (depending on the specialty).
Another weakness is when you want to connect your EHR to an outside organization. Most of them can handle lab and prescription interfaces without too much pain. However, connecting to a hospital or HIE can often be a challenge or cost you a lot of money to make happen. Certainly the meaningful use interoperability requirements and HL7 standards help some. We’ll see if it’s enough or if the future of healthcare interoperability will need something more. For example, will specialty specific EHR be able to participate in CommonWell if it achieves its goals?
There’s a case to be made on both sides of the specialty specific EHR debate. As with most EHR decisions, you have to choose which things matter most to your clinic.