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In The Trenches: Primary Care Practice Saves With EMR Transition

Posted on September 13, 2016 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 @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

This is the first in an occasional series of stories I’m writing on how medical practices – particularly smaller groups – are handling their health IT challenges. If you have suggestions for future columns please feel free to write to me at

It only took six months for Clem Surak to realize that his current EMR system wasn’t going to cut it. Surak, who bought Wilmington, NC-based primary care practice Health Partners in 2011 with his wife, didn’t originally come from the healthcare business, but he quickly saw that his IT platforms weren’t cost-effective.

The systems he inherited to run the practice, an Allscripts EHR sprawling across three servers and a companion practice management platform called Tiger, were “very proprietary” and tech support wasn’t easy to access. And they cost $20K per year to support two doctors.

Worse, the product wasn’t very current. “Meaningful Use had to be downloaded as a separate module,” said Surak.

Not surprisingly, Surak began looking for other options. After consulting with his local Regional Extension Center, he went with a new system from Amazing Charts (full disclosure: a former client of your editor). The new system, which went live in June 2012, offered some important benefits, including:

* Savings:  It cost Health Partners $5,400/year to license the integrated Amazing Charts EHR, a $14,600 savings over the Allscripts systems.

* Maintenance: Because the new solution is cloud-based, the practice doesn’t need to maintain the software or cope with technical breakdowns directly.

* Rollout: Implemented over the course of three months, with no slowdown or reduction in physician hours needed. “We kept our normal pace,” Surak says.

* Data transfer: To bring patient demographic data over from Allscripts to the new system, all the practice had to do was export Allscripts data into an Excel spreadsheet, then run an Amazing Charts wizard which imported it.

Of course, the practice faced some challenges as well, largely around adjusting workflow and phasing out the old system:

* Running in parallel:  For the first few years after the transition to Amazing Charts, Health Partners had to keep the Allscripts system running alongside the new system.

* Practice management lag:  Amazing Charts didn’t offer a practice management module at the time Health Partners acquired the EMR. Until mid-2015, when a practice management module became available, it had to keep doing patient scheduling and accounting in the Allscripts system.

Ultimately, despite some transitional hassles, Surak is glad he made the shift to a set of systems that work effectively in tandem. Putting a new EMR and practice management system in place hasn’t just saved money, it’s helped Surak keep efficiency high, running the practice with just a couple of support staffers.

“Most offices this size would have five to seven support staffers, but we don’t have to,” he says. “And keeping overhead down is the key to remaining independent.”

Will Medical Billing Systems Fail Under ICD-10 Phase 2?

Posted on April 6, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The people at CureMD sent out this tweet and image with a pretty powerful assertion about the future of medical billing systems.
Medical Billing Systems Fail Under ICD-10

I’d like to know where CureMD got the stat in their tweet. That’s a pretty strong assertion about medical billing systems. Based on my knowledge and experience, I’m not sure I agree with them. If they’d have said that ICD-10 in general would cause 50% of medical billing systems to fail, I would have thought it was high but possible. It’s not clear to me how phase 2 of ICD-10 will be so much worse for medical billing systems. Maybe they’ll share in the webinar.

I have seen a bunch of medical billing systems that were running on fumes heading into ICD-10. There was no one really actively developing these systems and they weren’t worrying about ICD-10. They were just sucking whatever revenue they could out of their existing clients and they were going to end of life the product once they ran out of clients. They’re like medical billing system zombies.

Turns out that there are a lot more of these types of systems in healthcare than you probably realized. In fact, I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about their demise after ICD-10’s implementation last year. Whenever I’d talk to doctors, they’d often tell me which EHR they had or which EHR they were considering. Then, I’d ask them which PM system they used and they’d tell me about some software I’d never heard of before. They knew it. They liked it. Many of them would happily say that “you could pull it from their cold dead hands.”

It’s interesting to see CureMD predict that it may be time for us to start doing just that. What are you seeing? Are medical billing systems going to have trouble with the 2nd phase of ICD-10? Will we see a bunch of them finally close up shop? What do you see?