What’s Behind EMR Software

Posted on April 25, 2010 I Written By

Guest Blogger: Richard has over 15 years of experience as product manager and public policy analyst. He is currently researching the use of technology to improve health care access. You find more of Richard’s writing on his blog.

No doubt, electronic medical record (EMR) buyers would love to wave their hands and clear the fog that envelops the EMR software purchase process.  Buyers’ uncertainty and distrust combine to create angst and skepticism that their purchase will be the correct one.

One tool to navigate this process: Like a doctor taking a medical and family history, the history and heritage of an EMR vendor can tell you much about the direction and competency of offerings.

Vendors for large customers (hospitals over 250 beds and physician groups over 100) have a historical software competency much like a DNA thread of a virus, with many of the distinct markers carried down to descendents. In the case of software, it is the concept of how the software is built that is carried through each revision and new product.

Prior to EMRs, software was created to register and bill patients and to reconcile financial transactions and records. That is their core competency and strength. To leap to EMR is a complete anathema to the financial paradigm. While orderly in the financial side, the EMR side is counterintuitive to them and their software shows that monolithic belief that once a design has been settled, little else can be done to customize it for future use.

Like their larger brethren, smaller EMR vendors who specialize in the primary care medical market have difficulty in accommodating subspecialties.  That’s because primary care tends to be more uniform in their approach than subspecialists who are much more fragmented than primary care. That fragmentation creates numerous requests for special features that may not be economically feasible for a small EMR vendor.

In summary, the heritage of an EMR vendor won’t ensure that you will be satisfied with your purchase. It will, however, make you aware of the bias and alert to how that may translate to functionality and support.  Vendors can change, but it’s difficult to break that “DNA lineage” unless there is an abrupt break from the past. The next time a sales representative hails you for a sales presentation, look a bit closer at the history and values of the vendor. It might just save you money.