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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.

Are You Cheating Yourself and Your Patients When Meeting Regulations Like Meaningful Use?

Posted on February 11, 2016 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.

I spend a lot of time counseling clients that, although they may be able to check the box for attestation, they’re cheating themselves and their patients out of the improvements that systems were intended to drive.

The above quote was from a post by Dr. Jayne on HIStalk. Her comment really struck me on a number of levels. The first is that I know so many organizations that met the rule of the law when it came to meaningful use, but definitely didn’t meet the spirit of the law.

Dr. Jayne is so right that many organizations that just slapped an EHR in there in order to get the EHR incentive money cheated themselves and their patients out of benefits that could have been achieved. I realize the economic realities associated with waiting, but I think we’re going to suffer some long term consequences from all the rushed implementations that jimmy rigged things to meet the letter of the law as opposed to using the meaningful use regulations to improve the care they provide.

However, I’d take Dr. Jayne’s analysis one step further. It’s worth considering if doctors chasing the EHR incentive money and showing meaningful use are cheating themselves and their patients. Those fans of meaningful use will probably think I’m just being negative. Most doctors will likely think it’s a very good question.

The reality I’ve seen is that the happiest doctors I know chose to shun meaningful use and some of them are now laughing at their physician friends that are busy clicking meaningful use check boxes. Ok, most of them aren’t evil enough to laugh. However, in their heads they’re thinking how grateful they are that they chose not to pursue meaningful use. It’s not hard to make an argument for why not doing meaningful use is in the best interest of your patient.

My takeaway from the experience of the meaningful use “gold rush” was to slow down and think rationally. Mistakes happen when you make irrational choices. Taking the time to make a well thought out business decision is key when evaluating any software implementation and government program. Even a software implementation with $36 billion of government incentive money attached to it.

Hard Doc’s Life – Fun Friday Video

Posted on July 31, 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.

We’ve regularly written about physician burnout and physicians’ frustration with EHR software. It’s a real issue that needs to be dealt with on so many levels. So, it seems appropriate for this Fun Friday post to share a video ZDoggMD posted from the Wisconsin Med Society where ZDoggMD pulls out a live performance of a Hard Doc’s Life. Enjoy the video below:

Tell us about your Hard Doc’s Life in the comments.

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?

A Look at the Nashville EHR Market

Posted on July 2, 2014 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.

I always love the discussions of the top healthcare markets in the US. When I hear this discussion, two cities that don’t likely get enough love and have a lot of healthcare companies are Nashville and Atlanta. Other people love to talk about Boston and San Diego is strong on the biotech side and has a growing mobile health side as well. Those are definitely some of the top cities for healthcare companies.

With this in mind, I was intrigued when Keith Cawley from Technology Advice emailed me some findings from a survey they did of the Nashville EHR market.

Here are the most interesting findings:

  • Epic, the number one national electronic health record vendor, does not rank among the top five vendors in Nashville
  • Nashville healthcare providers are significantly more satisfied with their EHR programs than providers nationwide
  • 16 percent of providers in Nashville have already switched EHRs
  • Adoption rate among certain specialties is significantly higher than national averages
  • Cost appears to be the number one consideration for Nashville EHR buyers

This feels a bit like a slam on Epic, but I don’t think that Keith has a dog in that fight. I think the findings that Epic does well nationwide, but hasn’t done well in Nashville is quite interesting and worthy of further exploration.

They also put out the Nashville EHR market infographic below. Most interesting to me is the percentages and how the EHR market is still very diverse. Of course, the market can be broken down into smaller segments where we see more domination by certain vendors, but we’re still seeing a lot of EHR diversity in every region.

Nashville EHR Market Infographic.

Survey Takers Show No Love for EMRs

Posted on February 13, 2014 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day … in case it hasn’t crossed your device or desk, Modern Economics – a self-described web community for health professionals – recently released the results of a survey that attempted to gauge physicians’ satisfaction with EHRs. Of the nearly 1,000 folks polled, nearly 70% concluded their investment in EHRs had not been worth it. Other stats included:

  • 67% are dissatisfied with system functionality
  • 65% indicated systems resulted in financial losses
  • 45% indicated patient care is worse
  • 69% indicated care coordination has not improved
  • 73% of largest practices would not purchase current system

These numbers certainly reflect what many in the industry have been saying for the last few years, but I find the statistics related to care incredibly high. My friends over at HISTalk.com reported that survey takers were “self-selected,” so I have to wonder if the entire field of respondents was skewed to the negative from the beginning.

I came across an interesting tweet exchange about the survey results:

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I’m no expert, but I definitely think the horse has left the barn, and that if a more impartial survey were done, we’d find more providers satisfied with EHRs and their impact on patient care.

In Blue Button news, I came across several articles this week announcing that leading pharmacies and retailers have joined the Blue Button movement. According to HealthIT.gov, these organizations are “committing to work over the next year towards standardizing patient prescription information to fuel the growth of private-sector applications and services that can add value to this basic health information.”

It’s encouraging to see businesses like Walgreens and Kroger – two places I shop at –  pledge to bring more awareness of health data to their customers. Perhaps my next post will shed light on how these businesses will accomplish their Blue Button goals.

Cognitive Dissonance and EMRs

Posted on July 18, 2012 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 CDC study has documented what’s pretty much old news to us EMR watchers, that more than half of U.S. doctors have taken their charts digital. The study also concluded that most are pretty happy with their EMR, heaven help us, and that it’s improved patient care.

According to a study by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, 55 percent of U.S. doctors have adopted some type of EMR.  More interestingly, for folks like me at least, 75 percent of those who have have met Meaningful Use Stage 1 criteria, something I might not have predicted if I hadn’t read the study.

This seems a bit strange to me, honestly. I’ve talked to countless doctors about their EMRs, both hospital- and practice-based, and I’ve only met a couple who actually felt satisfied with the system(s) they use. I haven’t met any that felt the systems have improved patient care, though I admit my sample isn’t drawn scientifically. (Vendors, I’m not saying that *nobody’s* happy, just that these numbers sound high, to be clear.)

The best explanation I can come up with for such results, which came from 3,200 doctors completing a mail-in survey, is the impact of cognitive dissonance.  Let me explain.

Doctors are being  pressured with thumb screws to make the switch, and it’s hardly surprising that most have come around.  So they’ve gone ahead and spent what in some cases are huge sums of money to make the leap.

The thing is, when you’re forced to use something every day, you can’t just keep on hating it more and more. Nobody has that much energy.  So over time, you resolve the cognitive dissonance — the battling “EMR painful” and “EMR necessary” thoughts — by learning to love Big Brother EMR, or at least believe that you do.

Then again, though I’d have trouble believing this, maybe there’s hordes of satisfied doctors that never come to the attention of a cynic like me. What do you think?