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EMR Costs Outweigh Benefits, Physicians Say

Posted on August 21, 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 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.

Nobody likes paying for something that’s expensive but not that valuable. But that’s the position many physicians feel they’re in when they buy an EMR, FierceHealthIT reports.

A new study by athenahealth concludes that while physicians do feel EMRs deliver benefits, the expense they have to take on outweigh the benefits EMRs deliver. The EMR vendor surveyed 1,200 physicians, 70 percent specialists and 30 percent primary care doctors to learn more about their attitudes toward EMRs, FHIT said.

The study wasn’t all bad news for EMR use. Thirty-eight percent of doctors had a “somewhat favorable” opinion, and 31 percent had a “very favorable” opinion of EMRs. That being said, 51 percent of responding physicians said that the financial benefits of EMRs don’t outweigh the cost, athenahealth found.

The study found that physicians were more familiar with EMRs than they were when athenahealth did its 2012 Physician Sentiment Index. But doctors’ willingness to buy an EMR  has actually fallen, probably because those who haven’t done it at this late date are particularly resistant. Meanwhile, one thing that hasn’t changed since last year is that doctors don’t think EMRs are made with their practice needs in mind.

Sadly, these results aren’t much of a surprise. While some doctors are adapting to their EMR installation, they’re still struggling with clunky interfaces and questionable vendor support.  Some practices have spent years waiting for their pre-EMR productivity to come back, and have found that it just isn’t happening.

But here and there there are some signs that vendors are “getting it.” For example, I really liked a story John wrote about how EMR vendor Elation requires programmers to shadow a physician as part of the hiring process. To my mind, this kind of thinking is far more likely to bear fruit than the existing system, which puts programmers at a considerable remove from their product’s end users.

The truth is, we’re never going to reach the point where all physicians are EMR boosters, but it’d be nice if we at least reached a point where most saw EMRs as being worth the (big) pricetag.

EHR Programmer Shadows Physician

Posted on August 16, 2013 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 was recently browsing through blogs and came across this post on the Elation EMR blog about their practice of having developers shadow a physician as part of their hiring process. What an amazing idea! I loved this paragraph which says a lot about the health IT industry:

I was terrified. I’d worked in healthcare IT for years, but even when I worked at startups I’d been three or four steps removed from the patients and even the clinician users. Being at the point of care, watching someone’s grandfather discuss his current prescriptions with his longtime primary care provider was revolutionarily human to me—and incredibly intimidating. Add to that the pressure that I didn’t have the job yet; this was one of the final stages of my job interview.

I think if we did a survey of healthcare IT programmers, we’d be saddened to know how many of them have never been part of a clinical interaction. I bet a huge percentage of these programmers’ only point of reference for healthcare was when they went to the doctor themselves.

At TedMed I ran into a former Epic programmer who confirmed what I describe above. They were there to program something to spec. They weren’t there to understand the clinical context of what they were creating. There is something very different between a programmer involved in the design process and one just designing to spec.

Obviously, Elation EMR takes the opposite focus on their approach to EHR development. The above policy adds some depth to Elation EMR Founder Kyna Fong’s post asking “Is You EHR Clinically Valuable?“. I love when a company doesn’t just talk about something, but their actions reflect their values.

I bet many EHR vendors would be embarrassed to ask their staff if they have ever shadowed a physician. No doubt, the number would be very low.

Healthcare IT Data Entry Takeaways

Posted on January 23, 2012 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 was looking over Rock Health’s writeup of the Health Innovation Summit. A lot of the post is more about what happened as opposed to what was said, but there were some really interesting takeaways that stuck out to me from the Form Reform: Data Entry for Humans session by Jackson Wilkinson. Here’s the section on it:

Jackson Wilkinson, Co-founder of WeSprout, gave attendees practical advice for data entry. Data is an important part of the healthcare equation, but input design is blocking progress. Quick take-aways: Don’t ask for anything you don’t need; whatever you request, return the favor in spades; make it fast, accurate, and simple. And don’t forget: The best form is the one you never have to fill out.

The money phrases:

Input design is blocking progress
and
Whatever you request, return the favor in spades
and
The best form is the one you never have to fill out.

While I’m quite sure this presentation had to do more with consumer health IT than EMR and EHR software, I think there’s a lot that could be learned from these comments by EMR companies. Far too many EHR companies believe that they have their users captive and so they can ask whatever they want of their users. Sure, they’d never admit this out loud, but when you look at their EHR software and the design, you realize that they weren’t focusing on the above points very well.

As I think about these points, I’m taken back to a visit to San Francisco where I met with the founders of Elation EMR, Conan and Kyna. I absolutely loved their laser focus on stripping out the unneeded extras in their EMR software. They talked about becoming a certified EHR and handling ePrescribing and how they literally had to work tirelessly to make meaningful use of a certified EHR a seamless experience that didn’t place an undue burden on the provider. I saw this same focus through every part of their approach to EHR software development. I haven’t seen their software in a while so I don’t know how well they’ve followed through on this focus, but I’m interested to see it again to find out.