Ways to Not Rank EHR Vendors

Posted on September 16, 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.

One of my pet peeves is organizations that put out rankings for EHR vendors that are based on really low quality factors and metrics. I’ve put a graphic I recently found at the bottom of this post. The graphic uses user adoption level, search traffic, and social media presence to rank “The 10 Most Popular EHR Products.” Yes, the image is at the bottom of the post, because I don’t think you should pay much attention to the ranking. Let’s talk about why.

First, I’ll give credit to them for putting their factors in the graphic itself. Many organizations that put out these rankings don’t even share their methodology for ranking EHR vendors. Although, this compliment falls flat on the first factor: user adoption level.

EHR User Adoption Level
They obtained this ranking and score from a survey of software users. Of course, they don’t say anything about how this survey sample was collected, how they selected who participated in the survey, etc. Long story short, I can think of probably 1000 ways that this sample is going to be biased. There are literally 300 EHR vendors out there. I need to consult my statistician friends, but I can’t imagine the random sample you’d need to get in order to estimate the users of 300 EHR vendors. Plus, there are so many ways to bias this sample based on region, hospital EHR or ambulatory EHR, hospital size, practice size, specialty, etc etc etc.

I also am not sure what they consider “regular users” of the system. Does that mean my 5 front desk staff count as well or is it just providers? Plus, if you look at the scores for the vendors taht are listed, Cerner and Meditech should be much higher when it comes to user adoption level. In fact, it’s possible they have more users than Epic which has the highest ranking possible for user adoption level.

I do think that user adoption level is an ok way to rank EHR vendors. The fact that many healthcare organizations have spent a bunch of money on an EHR vendor is one sign of an EHR vendors popularity and it’s worth considering what’s popular when evaluating software of any kind (including EHR software). However, does anyone have a really good way of analyzing how many users an EHR vendor has? The closest I’ve seen is meaningful use attestation data and it has its weaknesses. Long story short, I’m not buying the user adoption level rankings below.

EHR Search Traffic
Google has a great tool where you can compare search traffic for various keywords. I’ve used it before to compare the popularity of terms like EMR and EHR (They’re about even with EMR still ahead). While this tool is cool and very interesting, is that how you determine how popular an EHR vendor is? What if that EHR vendor has had some major security breaches and everyone is searching their name to find out about the breaches? That seems to be a sign that the EHR vendor is popular, but not for good reasons. Plus, how do you know when someone is searching for the Epic EHR versus Epic the movie and a few million variations of the word epic? Not to mention, if you have Jonathan Bush as your CEO, you’re going to get more searches than other EHR vendors just because of his vibrant personality (was that the politically correct way to describe it?).

Long story short, search traffic is an awful measure to use when ranking EHR vendors. I know some really amazing EHR software that have very little search traffic. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. They’ve focused on creating great software, partnering with doctors, and creating direct relationships with their users. Their search traffic certainly won’t reflect that piece of the puzzle.

EHR Social Media Presence
What’s in a like or follow? Yes, those are the factors the graphic below used to evaluate EHR vendors social media presence. They do weigh this factor less than the others. Does a like or follow on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook mean you’re popular? Do you know how easy it is to buy followers if you want to look like you have a lot of followers? $5 per 1000 followers is easy to get. Plus, these counts don’t matter as much as which people are following you and how engaged they are with you on social media. That matters a lot more than follower counts.

I don’t want to totally discredit an EHR vendors involvement in social media. That might be a sign that the company stays up to date and involved with the latest technology changes. It might mean that they’re engaged with and interested in their customers. Then again, it might not. Many EHR vendors just use it as a way to broadcast their company and not actually engage with people. Some EHR vendors don’t even participate in social media at all. That’s not an evil thing, but it might be worth investigating more and seeing if their lack of involvement in technology is seen in other aspects of their product offering.

So while I see value in evaluating an EHR vendor’s social presence, you can’t evaluate and rank it based on likes and followers. A much more complicated assessment is needed.

I understand that many organizations are grabbing hold of any means to differentiate the 300+ EHR vendors out there. It’s certainly a challenge I know first hand. However, I hope that healthcare organizations don’t get led astray by poorly done rankings like the graphic below. There’s always more to the story. If EHR rankings were easy, I would have done them myself a long time ago.

Top 10 Most Popular EHR Vendor Infographic