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McKesson, Meditech Chosen As EHR Test Systems for Meaningful Use

Here’s an interesting situation which is just popped up on my radar screen.  CMS and the ONC have chosen the first two vendors to serve as designated test EHR systems, and they’ve gone with McKesson and Meditech.

These test vendors are there to help eligible providers meet the requirements of Meaningful Use Stage 2.  To meet MU Stage 2 requirements, providers must successfully conduct at least one exchange test with a CMS-designated test EMR. (The providers can also meet the requirements by performing one electronic exchange of a summary of care document with a recipient using a different EMR technology.)

What intrigued me about this is that CMS and ONC are starting out with only two vendors for use as test EMR providers.  Given the diversity in the marketplace, you’d think that CMS would want to have fuller stock of vendors lined up before it went forward announcing its plans.

If I were an eligible provider going this route, I’d want to have the choice of a wider range test EMRs. Given how little real interoperability there is between EMRs, I’d like to know that I had a fallback position if my original tests didn’t work out.  After all, nothing I’ve read here suggests that EPs won’t have a chance to try again if the initial testing doesn’t go through, and if I were a provider, it’d be good to know that I could take the shot with other test EMRs. But I could be wrong, and that could have an effect on whether vendors see this as a win.

Let’s see if other substantial EMR vendors take up the ONC’s call to serve as test EMR participants.  It will be interesting to see whether vendors see participation as a credibility-raiser or a chance to get pantsed publicly if interoperating with their systems is a pain.

January 23, 2014 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 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 @annezieger on Twitter.

EMR Vendors Want Meaningful Use Stage 3 Delay

A group of EMR vendors have joined the chorus of industry organizations asking that Meaningful Use Stage 3 deadlines be moved up to a later date.  The vendors also want to see the nature of Stage 3 requirements changed to put a greater emphasis on interoperabilityInformation Week reports.

The group, the HIMSS EHR Association (EHRA), represents 40 vendors pulled together by HIMSS.  Members include both enterprise and physician-oriented vendors, including athenahealth, Cerner, Epic, eClinicalWorks, Emdeon, Meditech, McKesson, Siemens GE Healthcare IT and Practice Fusion.

In comments submitted to HHS, the vendors argue that MU Stage 3 requirements should not kick in until three years after a provider reaches Stage 2, and start no earlier than 2017. But their larger request, and more significant one, is that they’d like to see Meaningful Use Stage 3′s focus changed:

“The EHRA strongly recommends that Stage 3 focus primarily on encouraging and assisting providers to take advantage of the substantial capabilities established in Stage 1 and especially Stage 2, rather than adding new meaningful use requirements and product certification criteria. In particular, we believe that any meaningful use and functionality changes should focus primarily on interoperability and building on accelerated momentum and more extensive use of Stage 2 capabilities and clinical quality measurement.”

So, we’ve finally got vendors like walled-garden-player Epic finding a reason to fight for interoperability. It took being clubbed by the development requirements of Stage 3, which seems to have EHRA members worried, but it happened nonetheless.

While there’s obviously self-interest in vendors asking not to strain their resources on new development, they still have a point which deserves considering.  Does it really make sense to push the development curve as far as Stage 3 requires before providers have gotten the chance to leverage what they’ve got?  Maybe not.

Now, the question is whether the vendors will put their code where their mouth is. Will the highly proprietary approach taken by Epic and some of its peers become passe?

January 29, 2013 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 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 @annezieger on Twitter.

Study: Drug Problems Most Common EMR Safety Event

When the phrase “EMR problems” comes to mind, most of us get a  mental image of hardware flaws, software bugs or integration problems. But according to a new study, the majority of EMR-related patient care problems stem from issues in how people interact with their system, specifically in documenting and administering medication.

In recent research, the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority queried the state’s patient safety reporting database to identify EMR-related events. After sifting out events that didn’t truly appear to be EMR-related, analysts were left with 3,099 patient safety issue reports. The events were then classified by the harm score assigned by the reporter.

As it turns out, the great majority of events (89%) resulted in no harm to the patient. Ten percent of events were reported as “unsafe conditions” but also resulted in no harm to the patient.  Fifteen events actually resulted in temporary harm to the patient:

* Six cases of entering wrong medication data
* Three cases of administering the wrong medication
* Two cases of ignoring a documented allergy
* Two cases of failure to enter lab tests
* Two cases of failure to document

The only event that resulted in significant harm stemmed from failure to properly document an allergy, analysts said:

Patient with documented allergy to penicillin received ampicillin and went into shock, possible [sic] due to anaphylaxis. Allergy written on some order sheets and “soft” coded into Meditech but never linked to pharmacy drug dictionary.

All told, medication errors were the most commonly reported event (81 percent), largely wrong-drug, dose, time patient or route errors (50 percent) or omitted dose (10 percent).

It’s worthy of note that according to the researchers, the narrative reports of EMR-related reports dug up from the Pennsylvania database differed meaningfully from reports found in FDA database MAUDE and Australia’s Advanced Incident Management System, which have different reporting requirements.

It seems that there’s a lot more work to be done in exposing the types of patient safety errors that may be unique to EMRs, but this looks like a good start.

December 13, 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 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 @annezieger on Twitter.

Will Big EMR Vendors Use Healthcare Standards As A Weapon?

Standards are a tricky thing. Some times, they bring a technical niche to its senses and promote innovation, and others, they’re well-intentioned academic efforts which gain no ground.  From what I’ve seen over the years, the difference between which standards gain acceptance and which end up in trash bin of history has more to do with politics than technical merit.

But what the EMR industry did neither? From the mind of my crafty colleague John, here’s a scenario to consider.  What if rather than going with an industry-wide standard for interoperability, the big EMR vendors agreed on a standard they’d share and more or less shut out the smaller players?

Yeah, I already hear you asking: “Wouldn’t that be an antitrust violation?”  While I am not and probably never will be a lawyer, my guess is if a bunch of big vendors deliberately, obviously shut the smaller players out, it would be. But standards are so slippery that I bet it’d be a while before anyone outside of our industry saw something funny going on.

Besides, the government is doing everything in its power to get EMR vendors to help providers achieve interoperability. Right now ONC is not getting much cooperation — in fact, I’d characterize the big vendors’ stance as ‘passive aggressive’ at best.  So if Epic, Cerner, Siemens, MEDITECH and their brethren found a way to make their products work together, they might get a gold star rather then an FTC/DoJ slap on the wrist.

Besides, it would be in the interests of the bigger firms to include a few smaller players in their interoperability effort, the ones in the big boys’ sweet spots, and then “oops,” the smaller companies would get acquired and the knowledge would stay home.

Right now, as far as I can tell, it’s Epic versus the rest of the world, and that rest of the EMR world is not minded to play nicely with anyone else either. But if John can imagine a big-EMR-company standards-based coup d’etat happening, rest assured they have as well.

John’s Comment: Since Anne mentions this as my idea, I thought I’d weight in a little bit on the subject. While it’s possible that the big EHR vendors could adopt a different standard and shut out the small EHR vendors, I don’t think that’s likely. Instead of adopting a different standard, I could see the large EHR vendors basically prioritizing the interfaces with the small EHR vendors into oblivion.

In fact, in many ways the big EHR vendors could use the standard as a shield for what they’re doing. They’ll say that they can interface with any EHR vendor because they’re using the widely adopted standard. However, it’s one thing to have the technical capability to exchange healthcare information and a very different thing to actually create the trust relationship between EHR vendors to make the data sharing possible.

Think about it from a large EHR vendor perspective. Why do they want to be bothered with interoperability with 600+ EHR vendors? That’s a lot of work and is something that could actually hurt their business more than it helps.

My hope is that I’m completely wrong with this, but I’ve already seen the large EHR vendors getting together to make data sharing possible. The question is whether they’re sincerely doing this out of a desire to connect as many health records as quickly as possible or whether it is good strategy. My gut feeling is that it’s probably both. It just works out that the first is better to say in public and the second is just a nice result of doing the first.

October 9, 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 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 @annezieger on Twitter.

Hospital EMR Vendor Consolidating, But Physician EMR Market Still Dynamic

If you don’t check out the HIMSS group on LinkedIn from time to time, you should. I always pick up something to think about when I visit, and this time was no exception.

A group of IT pros, most of whom seemed to have plenty of institutional memory of EMRs gone by, were talking about whether the current leaders of the EMR vendor pack would take over and most of the rest fall away.  The consensus, not surprisingly, was that hospital CEOs are herd animals, and that a few leaders are likely to take most of the market.

As things stand today, even EMRs that seem to be a better fit usually lose to the Epics, Cerners and Meditechs of the world, writes Richard Rauber, FHIMSS.

“Let’s say the preferred EMR has 10 clients similar to their facility, and the second choice has 75 clients in the same bed range with a high level of user satisfaction. Is the risk/reward ratio low enough to go with the smaller vendor? It today’s market it would be unlikely.”

If these posters are right, the hospital market is going to standardize on a dozen or so of the most successful vendors. Unfortunately, that’s likely to lead to some really nasty implementations, suggests Terry Montgomery, PMP: “I had such a project last year. They had to move the go live date three times and there were still bugs they had to fix.”

That being said, I think there will be a lot more dancing when it comes to the physician EMR market.  You’ve got breakout models like the no-cost Practice Fusion — and its bundle of VC cash to fuel the fire — iPad-based DrChrono, Free Mitochon PMS-EHR-HIE and a growing number of elegant, doctor-crafted implementations like SOAPware and Amazing Charts.

While the dynamic of hospital IT purchasing is to standardize on the big boys (the old “nobody gets fired for buying IBM” syndrome), physicians can’t afford to buy a system just because the practice across town thought it was cool. Not that such doesn’t happen, but it’s less likely.

I predict that doctors will have some great options to choose from when they hit HIMSS13 next year, systems integrated intelligently with revenue cycle needs but also cleanly designed and physician friendly.

The smaller EMR companies focused on doctors are just doing a better job of mirroring a doctor’s process, there no doubt in my mind. If only such logic would float upward to the billion-dollar boys behind the hospital giants.

Full Disclosure: Practice Fusion, Mitochon, SOAPware and Amazing Charts are advertisers on this blog.

March 6, 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 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 @annezieger on Twitter.

One Student’s Perspective on Electronic Medical Records

I’ve had the good fortune in the past year or two to watch one of my daughters’ favorite babysitters blossom into a full-time nursing student at the University of West Georgia. Not only do my girls benefit from her great bedside manner, including an infinite amount of patience, but I get an occasional inside glimpse into the world of digital medical record keeping in the greater Atlanta area.

Her training at West Georgia has taken her to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Egleston, Wellstar Cobb and Austell, Fayette Piedmont, Tanner Medical Center and Gentiva Healthfield Hospice. She graciously offered to share her rookie’s perspective on the electronic medical records – including SCM/Quest (Allscripts Sunrise Clinical EHR system) and Meditech – she has used at several of the facilities she has trained in.

How long have your healthcare training facilities had EMRs in place?
All except Gentiva Healthfield Hospice – in-home hospice care, for the most part, sticks with paper charting. If they were to make the switch to an EMR, they would have to have access to a central database from their personal computers/iPads/Blackberries, etc. All others have had some sort of electronic database for at least five years.

How intuitive did you find them to be in your first training sessions/rounds?
Once I had been trained in the first system I encountered, the rest seemed very user-friendly. They have been in use long enough now that they are efficient and fairly self-explanatory.

They all allow an employee to cluster patient care and spend enough time with the patient because the time stamp on documentation can be changed to the time that the intervention was completed. For example, I could complete a full assessment on a patient, bathe them and administer their medications without having to document in the computer every few minutes. I could just open their EMR after completing their care and add the correct time stamp on my documentation.

What were the easiest to use, and what were the most difficult?
Meditech was the most difficult to use, perhaps because I had limited access as a student. It was difficult to find complete admission notes and patient histories.

Speaking from a “rookie’s” perspective, what would you tell vendors of these systems to better their products?
Add a patient verification requirement before each documentation session, i.e. each set of vital signs, medications given, etc. (Something simple, like a box with the patient’s name and DOB and an “Ok” button)

Did your supervisors express any enthusiasm or dissatisfaction with any particular systems?
All expressed enthusiasm, but they also were concerned any time a system was to be updated with even minor changes. Fayette Piedmont uses one EMR system for Labor and Delivery, and a completely different system for the rest of the hospital. This means, for the staff, that a new baby’s records have to be re-entered into a new system once they are discharged from labor and delivery and admitted to the NICU or postpartum unit. It also means the pharmacy has difficulty accessing vital information when, for instance, they need to know a baby’s weight to send the appropriate dose of medication to the NICU.

How aware are you of post-implementation training that goes on with EMRs, based on the facilities you’ve trained at? Do your supervisors ever mention it?
Once an employee is hired, they usually must display proficiency with the charting system within a specified training period. When Fayette Piedmont updated SCM/Quest, they did not retrain each employee, but they did send out a packet with a detailed description of the changes. From what I have seen, the older nurses who may have preferred paper charting at one point do not seem to have any problems with the electronic charting.

Have you been made aware of any increase/decrease in positive clinical outcomes as a result of physicians/nurses using these systems? Any examples you feel comfortable sharing?
The major changes to these systems each time they are updated usually involve the addition of safeguards. For example, the newest version of SCM/Quest has the patient’s name, weight, room number and allergies on every page of the charting system, and in multiple locations on the page.

For the employees who pay attention, this has reduced many documentation errors. There is also an embedded link to drug guides in every electronic medication order with explicit instructions and safe dose ranges. For the employee who knows these features are there, they are a tremendous help, and they do serve to protect the patient. It is still possible to document in the wrong patient’s chart, without realizing it, in any system.

Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how her experience with EMRs changes as she continues her studies and then moves into the professional world of nursing, which will likely coincide with healthcare facilities continuing to move through the various stages of Meaningful Use.

Stay tuned for next week’s post, in which I’ll profile an EMR educator, and find out what other students are facing when it comes to EMR training. In the meantime, what sort of healthcare IT-related challenges will our new workforce face in the coming year? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

December 7, 2011 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.

Critical Access Hospital EMR & EHR Market Series on Hospital EMR and EHR

For those of you that work in the Hospital EMR and EHR market or have an interest in hospital healthcare IT, you should go over right now and make sure you’re subscribed to our sister site: Hospital EMR and EHR. The content that’s being created on that site is phenomenal.

For example, Chris O’Neal from KATALUS Advisors just finished a series of posts covering the Critical Access Hospital EMR & EHR market. Here are the posts from the series:
How Big is the Health IT Market for Critical Access Hospitals?
Pressures on Critical Access Hospitals – IT Budgets, Competition and IT Talent Retention
What Are the Health IT Trends Working in Favor of Small Hospitals?
Which Health IT and EHR Vendors Should Critical Access Hospitals Consider?

I’ve got another post titled The Argument for Meditech on the way as well. I’ve really enjoyed working with Chris and KATALUS Advisors on these posts and I believe we’ll have even more great Hospital EMR and EHR content from them in the future.

Plus, many of you probably remember many of the great posts here on EMR and EHR by Katherine Rourke. She has such a love for hospitals, that Katherine’s now posting on Hospital EMR & EHR. You can find all of her posts here.

October 11, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: and, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

Epic, Cerner Best For ACOs? Say What?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly sure what an Accountable Care Organization is. In fact, I’m betting nobody is — there’s a bunch of harrumphing and throat clearing out there, but I haven’t seen any crystal-clear descriptions out there.  Shall we say that ACOs are more honored in the breach than in the observance and leave it at that?

Now, we come to the puzzling part of this piece. If nobody’s managed to define an ACO clearly, how can any particular EMR be a better ACO tool than another?  We’ll have to ask KLAS about this one, since they’re the ones that discovered this “fact.”

Today, KLAS announced that it had interviewed 197 providers at 187 organizations to see how ACOs are forming up. A third of the respondents said that they were pursuing a formal Medicare ACO designation, and the majority were felt ACOs were the future, KLAS reported.

Sure, considering that ACOs are just risk-taking organizations with a capitated feel, some people already have a sense of what to expect. But throw an EMR into the mix and we’re in new territory — hopefully good territory, but new nonetheless.

So, tell me how providers know that Epic and Cerner are the most ACO-ready? Apparently, respondents believe that Cerner already has many of the IT pieces needed to run ACOs; moreover, they say Cerner is working closely with providers interested in the ACO model.

Survey takers also gave a nod to Epic, which they see as being close to ready (though behind in analyics and ability to share data with non-Epic users).

Wait a minute — let me get this straight.  Respondents know Cerner has the right pieces, even though the ACO doesn’t exist yet?  They like Epic, even though it doesn’t share data outside of its walled garden?  KLAS is kidding, right?

At this point, I’ll be kind and say that Epic and Cerner users are a bit brainwashed, which I too might be if I’d spent the kind of money those folks have on an EMR.

But the voice in my suggests that KLAS might have had its finger on the scales just a little bit. I will not publicly state that Allscripts, CPSI, GE Healthcare, McKesson, MEDITECH, QuadraMed and Siemens scored worse because they didn’t pay for play…but something sure isn’t right here.




September 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.