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101 Tips to Make Your EMR and EHR More Useful – EHR Tips 91-95

Posted on July 29, 2011 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.

Time for the second entry covering Shawn Riley’s list of 101 Tips to Make your EMR and EHR More Useful. I hope you’re enjoying the series.

95. Background check the vendor’s support team
This is such great advice. You’re guaranteed to have to call your EHR’s support number. You want to know what kind of answer you get. Certainly this can be learned by asking current clients of the EHR vendor. Although, don’t just ask the clients the EHR vendor gives you. Also, be sure to call other users of that EHR system to understand what kind of support they get when they have an issue.

Online forums are also a great place to learn about support. Just be aware that online you’re likely only going to read about the best and worst experiences that people have had with an EHR vendor. Of course, you can also always just give their support number a call and see what happens. Cold calling their support could teach you a lot about the type of service they provide.

94. Ask how the vendor ensures disaster recovery and business continuity
This is particularly important when you’re dealing with a SaaS EHR vendor. Don’t be shy asking them for details of how they’re doing this. In fact, if I were an EHR vendor I’d have a nice detailed explanation of how we’re doing it. If they’re doing it right, they’ll be happy to talk through the details.

If you’re considering a client server based EHR software, then some of this will fall to you and your IT team. However, your IT team can often only implement certain disaster recovery and business continuity features if your EHR vendor supports those features. So, be sure to have a competent IT person look over the EHR vendors capabilities. Plus, you might want to put these capabilities in your EHR contract since they often say one thing about disaster recovery and then deliver another.

93. TRY to use a vendor that actually has standards in their system I find this point from Shawn interesting. My first problem with it is that unfortunately we don’t have great standards in healthcare IT (yet?). However, a few that are easily recognized are HL7 and CCR/CCD. I honestly can’t say I’ve seen any vendor that doesn’t support HL7 though. So, since they all do it, that won’t help you much.

The other side of this coin is the various systems that an EHR vendor uses. Do they use a standard SQL database and a common programming language or do they use a proprietary database and programming language? I’m not sure this should be a complete deal killer, but there is some benefit to choosing an EMR system that uses a standard SQL database. Particularly if we’re talking about a client server EMR system. However, for most people this won’t likely have much impact on them. The only exception being that the language and/or database they use might be an indication of how “legacy” their EHR software is.

92. Google “product name + support forum”
There’s some real value for an EHR vendor to have an online support forum. In some cases, EHR vendors have support forums that are run by a third party. I think we can all see the value in sharing experiences using a specific EHR software with someone else who uses that same software. A lot of learning can happen that way. You’ll be amazed at how creative some people are and how vastly different they might use the same software.

My only problem with some of these third party online forums is that it can often mean that the support from that EHR vendor isn’t very good. Why do I say this? Because if the EHR vendor support was better, people wouldn’t have had to turn to these third party forums to get support. You can usually see if this is the case by browsing the threads of the forum and see how many complain about not getting support from the vendor and so that’s why they found the online forum.

I wouldn’t say an online forum is absolutely essential for an EHR company, but if they have one you should know about it and see what it’s like before you buy.

91. Google “product name + Twitter / Facebook / etc…
It seems that I wouldn’t knock an EHR company as much as Shawn does when it comes to an EHR vendor’s presence on things like Twitter and Facebook. Shawn says that it could be a sign that they’re stuck in the past. While this could be true, it could also just mean that they’ve chosen other forms of marketing that fit their skills and abilities.

While I don’t necessarily count lack of social media presence as a huge minus, it can be a huge plus. Twitter has become a great way for me to get support. For some reason companies like to listen more when I broadcast my need in a public forum. So, EHR companies that listen on the likes of Twitter might be a benefit for you when you’re not getting the support you need. Plus, an EHR vendor’s Twitter, Facebook and blog can tell you a lot about the personality of an EHR company. Something that can be really important in your assessment of the company.

If you want to see my analysis of the other 101 EMR and EHR tips, I’ll be updating this page with my 101 EMR and EHR tips analysis. So, click on that link to see the other EMR tips.

Providers Aren’t Taking EMR Training Seriously Enough

Posted on February 16, 2011 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.

As we noted in a previous post, the latest group of EMR buyers have gotten savvy about support.  As a new study suggests, more than ever, providers are choosing vendors who offer a great deal of handholding.  And that’s probably a good idea, according to Michael Patmas of the American College of Healthcare Executives.  Below,  here’s some of his thoughts on EMR and CPOE project failures.

I have had the unfortunate experience of being in two organizations that had EMR and / or CPOE implementation failures as well as one organization that was successful. A key learning for me was the need to adequately fund training and support. Too often, implementation plans are driven by the vendor who tend to under emphasize the training needs. Simply providing a few hours of hands on training for the physicians is not enough. The real training begins after one flips the switch and providers have to actually work with the system in real time during clinical encounters. That’s when having trainers available to sit with and coach the providers is essential. In every implementation failure I have seen, the organizations under-invested in training and ongoing support.

Sadly, though, many providers seem to cross  their fingers and hope a little training will somehow diffuse automatically into the organization.  This is a dangerously irresponsible stance, but it’s all too common.

In fact,  at three separate community hospitals, I’ve personally witnessed doctors and nurses huddled together over an EMR workstation trying to teach each other how to use the system.  If it made me squirm — under these circumstances, serious  errors like misdocumenting drug allergies are all but inevitable — hospital leaders should be terrified, shouldn’t they?

Large EMR Responsiveness (or lack thereof)

Posted on May 2, 2010 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 got the following email from an EMR vendor that highlights a number of interesting things about what it’s like for customers interacting with their EMR vendor. It’s very much in line with the experiences I’ve seen and heard. I’ve removed the specific EMR vendor names since the names don’t matter as much as the general experience. Instead I’ve used “small EMR vendor” and “large EMR vendor” and “ePrescribing solution.”

I was looking for an ePrescribe solution to interface to our small EMR vendor about a year ago and settled on using ePrescribing solution. As you probably know, they bailed out of the business and sold their service to large EMR vendor. Now we’ve interfaced our product with theirs.

The thing that makes me chuckle is my clients beat me up all the time on saving “clicks” and yet they don’t say a negative thing about the steps associated with large EMR vendor. I guess its because they know I have control over my product and they realize there is zero from the large EMR vendor.

As an observation, questions and low-level technical support was very, very good from the old ePrescribing solution. It appears to be non-existent with large EMR vendor – maybe because they’re busy dealing with so many conversions from the purchased ePrescribing solution? Don’t know. I also know from first-hand experience that support is rather poor with large EMR vendor.

Learning About Your IT Support Before an EMR Implementation

Posted on December 7, 2009 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.

On EMR and HIPAA I did a post about healthcare IT Projects you can implement today. The basic concept is that you can work on other IT projects if you’re not quite ready to implement an EMR (for example if you’re waiting to learn more about the EMR stimulus money). Dan Draper stopped by and left an additional comment about an additional side benefit of doing an IT project before implementing an EMR (emphasis added):

Besides the direct benefit these projects deliver, taking baby steps with technology will make a big implementation easier. In these small IT implementations, I would recommend clinics and offices take the opportunity to evaluate IT integrators, network engineers and value-added resellers.

Which ones are easy to work with?
Who can implement the system?
Who can sell the equipment?
Who is going to support it?

Use these small projects to find out which IT reseller really understands the challenge of healthcare (critical data/no on-site IT support) and won’t leave a doctor or administrator with a hot closet, a mess of cables or an infrastructure that won’t easily expand. Use this opportunity to ask the integrator or reseller what the IT costs and scope would be for that future (eventual) EMR implementation.

Very fine points. If you don’t think your relationship with your IT support help is important, you’re in real trouble during an EMR implementation. Done right, you won’t really notice they’re there. Done wrong, and let the finger pointing begin.