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Physicians Still Struggle To Find EHR Value

Posted on July 18, 2016 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.

A new study by Physicians Practice magazine suggests that medical groups still aren’t getting what they want out of their EHRs, with nearly one-fifth reporting that they’re still struggling with an EHR-related drop in productivity and others still trying to optimize their system.

Physicians Practice surveyed 1,568 physicians, advanced practice providers across the U.S. as part of its 2016 Technology Survey. Nearly a third of respondents (31.9%) were in solo practice, and 34% in 2 to 5 physician practices, with percentages largely dropping as practice sizes grew larger.

Specialties represented included pediatrics (17.5%), family medicine (16.2%), OB/GYN (15.2%), psychiatry (12%), internal medicine (10.6%), surgery (2.9%), general practice (2.7%) and “other” at 22.9% (led by ophthalmology). As to business models, 63.3% of practices were independently-owned, 27.9% were part of an integrated delivery network and the remaining 8.8% were “other,” led by federally-qualified health centers.

Here’s some interesting data points from the survey, with my take:

  • Almost 40% of EHR users are struggling to get value out of their system: When asked what their most pressing technology problem was, 20.3% said it was optimizing use of their EHR, 18.9% a drop in productivity due to their EHR, and 12.9% a lack of interoperability between EHRs. Both EHR implementation and costs to implement and use technologies came in at 8%.
  • EHR rollouts are maturing, but many practices are lagging: About 59% of respondents had a fully-implemented EHR in place, with 14.5% using a system provided by a hospital or corporate parent. But 16.8% didn’t have an EHR, and 9.5% had selected an EHR (or a corporate parent had done so for them) but hadn’t fully implemented or optimized yet.
  • Many practices that skip EHRs don’t think they’re worth the trouble and expense: Almost 41% of respondents who don’t have a system in place said that they don’t believe it would improve patient care, 24.4% said that such systems are too expensive. A small but meaningful subset of the non-users (6.6%) said they’d “heard too many horror stories.”
  • Medical group EHR implementations are fairly slow, with more than one-quarter limping on for over a year: More than a third (37.2%) of practices reported that full implementation and training took up to six months, 21.2% said it took more than six months and less than a year, 12.8% said more than a year but less than 18 months, and 15.7% at more than 18 months.
  • Most practices haven’t seen a penny of return on their EHR investment: While just about one-quarter of respondents (25.7%) reported that they’d gotten ROI from their system, almost three-quarters (74.3%) said they had not.
  • Loyalty to EHR vendors is lukewarm at best: When asked how they felt about their EHR vendor, 39.7% said they were satisfied and would recommend them, but felt other vendors would be just as good. Just over 16% said they were very satisfied. Meanwhile, more than 17% were either dissatisfied and regretted their purchase or ready to switch to another system.
  • The big EHR switchout isn’t just for hospitals: While 62.1% of respondents said that the EHR they had in place was their first, 27.1% were on their second system, and 10.8% their third or more.

If you want to learn more, I recommend the report highly (click here to get it). But it doesn’t take a weatherman to see which way these winds are blowing. Clearly, many practices still need a hand in getting something worthwhile from their EHR, and I hope they get it.

If EHR Had a Tech Problem We’d Blame the Vendors

Posted on July 23, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

During last week’s #KareoChat, the chat host @GabrielSPerna offered the following tweets from the @PhysiciansPract account for which he is now managing editor (Gabriel Perna was formerly @HCInformatics):

When I saw this tweet, I knew I needed some time to chew on the concept. Do we really blame our vendor when it’s a tech problem? I’m reminded of a time my EHR software ran out of control and was literally chewing up RAM and never spitting it out. I’d restart the server and we’d be fine until the EHR software had chewed up all the RAM again and then the EHR was slow as molasses. You can bet I was blaming my EHR vendor for the tech problems we were having.

However, did I blame them for our cultural challenges as well? I guess the key term there for me is “blame.” I know many practices (and have heard of others) who have switched EHR vendors 3, 4, even 5 times. They loved to blame the previous EHR vendors for their problems. However, by the 2nd or third, you can be sure there are some cultural problems there that need to be resolved. As much as they want to blame the EHR vendor they’re likely not to blame.

Another tweet from today’s #KareoChat seems to also illustrate the challenge is cultural and not technical:

I can already hear Dr. Tom in his EHR product management meetings asking why they’re building a certain feature into the software when it supports a flawed process. The developers respond that it’s what the customer wants. This highlights a major cultural problem.

Back to the original discussion. The fact that many doctors haven’t seen an ROI from their EHR, but less than 20% are dissatisfied with their EHR vendor does seem to say that most EHR vendors have not had tech issues. Instead the EHR dissatisfaction likely stems from a lot of other cultural problems in healthcare.

All of this reminds me of some old posts where I asked “Can An EMR Focus on Patient Care in the Current Reimbursement Environment?” and what would an EHR look like if it was focused on customer requests and not MU? Is the healthcare culture what has created these less than happy EHR users or is that letting the EHR vendors off the hook?

3 Keys to Improving your EHR ROI

Posted on December 6, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As most of you know, I’m a big fan of EHR. However, we still hear of many cases where the EHR isn’t living up to its potential. In most cases, they start talking about the ROI of their EHR software. While there are many reasons why a practice could not be seeing an ROI on their EHR software, the reality I’ve seen over all these years is that an EHR ROI is possible, but it takes the right focus, the right people and the right software to make it happen.

The benefits of EHR software are there and quite clear. What’s not clear is whether your EHR implementation is going to be done in a way that it achieves those goals.

While I still think that EHR selection is the most important factor in determining the ROI of your EHR software, this whitepaper called Improving the ROI of Your EHR: 3 Keys for Success provides a pretty good set of ideas as well. In fact, you should consider the 3 keys in this whitepaper as part of your EHR selection process.

Here are the 3 keys that they offer:

  1. Choose a Product that Enhances Profitability
  2. Optimize Implementation for Faster Time to Value
  3. Attack Meaningful Use in a Way that Maximized Value

The whitepaper digs into a lot more details on what each key really means.

As I look at those keys, I think:

  • Do you have the right software?
  • Are you implementing the software thoughtfully so you get to the value as quick as possible?
  • Can you benefit from the government EHR money?

Of course, there’s a lot of dirty worked involved in each point. EHR ROI doesn’t come without work, but ROI rarely involves sitting back with a cold drink in hand.

Proving EMR ROI IS Still Tough, So Buying Takes A Leap Of Faith

Posted on May 29, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Folks, if you’ve worked or presently live in the enterprise software world, you know that proving that you system generates a worthwhile return on investment is tricky.  Sure, vendors sales staffs usually offer some neat calculators that prove you’ll see 1000% return by next Tuesday, but internally, even they admit that making such estimates is more black magic than science.

While some of you may have different experiences, it seems to me that proving that an EMR can generate a return on investment reasonably soon is particularly difficult. Sure, most hospitals and medical practices know their annual revenue run rate, and have a good breakdown of their expenses in hand, but are they set up to detect the effects going electronic can have?

After all, while some enterprise software directly helps companies generate revenue — most obviously, lead-generation monsters like Salesforce.com — others earn their keep but preventing problems from happening or improving quality. And if a provider organization doesn’t know what their mistakes are costing them, and doesn’t pay a direct price when patients fare poorly, how can they pin down how much financial benefit their EMR produces?

 

Admittedly, as the quality data reporting bandwagon continues to roll faster, everyone from small practices to giant hospital systems are likely to have a better idea of where they’re slipping — they can’t afford not to, as they’re likely to forfeit incentives paid by Medicare or private insurers.  And most cases, it will take an EMR to organize, analyze and report out that data effectively.

Unfortunately, providers can’t expect huge bonuses just for buying an EMR. (OK, let’s be honest and admit that HITECH dollars are nice to have but not enough to make  or break a viable business.) So they’re having to make a leap of faith and invest in a system, sometimes a very expensive one, on the still-unproven assumption that it will offer tangible financial and organizational benefits in the near future. That’s gotta hurt.

Aggressive providers have been taking this risk for years now, and many have been very glad they did.  Not only have there been some nice examples of how hospitals and health systems have benefitted by their EMR investment, I’ve met doctors in small practices who absolutely rave about how productive their shift to EMRs has been. So there’s at least anecdotal evidence to support EMR buy-in.

Still, it sure would be nice if there was a one-size-fits-all ROI we could offer providers, or even a decent series of estimates. Right now, many are just going to have to fly blind.