Healthcare News & Insights

Choose the right EHR system the first time: 5 pitfalls to avoid

Adopting an EHR system is a big investment for hospitals. But it’s even more costly if the organization chooses the wrong system. 

124690422A lot of hospitals are currently stuck with unsatisfactory EHR systems, according to a recent survey from Software Advice, a resource for medical software buyers. Many are looking around for software to replace their current system.

Close to one-third (31%) of healthcare organizations shopping for an EHR in 2013 are doing so to replace a system that’s already in place. That’s compared to just 21% that were replacing an existing system in 2010.

And it’s not that more hospitals are finally getting around to replacing old technology — just 16% of those buyers said they were looking for a new EHR system because their current software is outdated or unsupported.

The top reason for making a change: Hospitals are dissatisfied with their EHR systems and vendors. The majority (62%) of organizations shopping for a replacement system said that was the reason.

Similar results were seen in a survey conducted earlier this year by Black Book Rankings. Among 17,000 healthcare organizations currently using EHRs, 17% said they are considering switching to a different system by the end of 2013. And another survey focusing solely on doctors found even lower satisfaction rates.

Among 4,200 physicians surveyed by the American College of Physicians and AmericanEHR Partners, 39% said they would not recommend their current EHR system to a colleague.

In other words: Many hospitals and other healthcare providers haven’t had much luck in choosing the right EHR system for their organization. That’s especially troubling due to the high costs of EHR adoption. The cost goes far beyond the price of the software itself — it can include training, lost productivity, necessary hardware upgrades, and other items.

The bottom line: Taking the time to choose the right system now will save hospitals a lot in the long term. If your organization is looking for its first EHR system, or searching for a better replacement, here are some of the key factors to consider:

1. Don’t miss key features

The number one reason hospitals are dissatisfied with their EHR system, according to the organizations polled by Software Advice: It lacks many of the key features the hospital needs.

That’s why many experts recommend the very first step healthcare providers take when looking for software is to make a list of all the necessary features, as well as the features that would be nice to have. Then the hospital can begin the selection process by eliminating vendors that donn’t meet those requirements.

When making the list, it’s important to get input from all groups that will have to use the system. That includes doctors, nurses, administrative staff, IT employees and others.

2. Focus on ease of use

Among the doctors surveyed by the American College of Physicians and AmericanEHR Partners, the number-one complaint about EHRs was that the software is difficult to use. And the second most common reason the organizations polled by Software Advice were shopping for a new system is that their software is “too cumbersome,” while many also reported the system is “too complex.”

Again, the problem stems largely from organizations failing to get input from those who will be the eventual end users of the EHR system. Those groups should be involved in viewing software demos to make sure they can comfortably work with the system for their daily tasks.

3. Test hardware compatibility

EHRs are complex systems that require a lot of hardware resources, and hospitals may find the system they choose doesn’t work well with their current infrastructure. In fact, hardware failure was the third most often-cited reason for needing a new system.

The solution: Hospitals must make sure their chosen system works on their current hardware, or they need to make necessary upgrades before the system is implemented.

Another approach many hospitals take is turning to a cloud-based system, which doesn’t require the software to be installed on the organization’s own network.

4. Match to your organization

As the EHR market has grown, more vendors are offering systems that cater to different types of organizations — for example, there are systems meant for specific specialties, as well as some meant for hospitals of certain sizes.

As those options have grown, a number of organizations report that they’re looking for a new system because what they have now is too generic, according to Software Advice’s survey.

To avoid that, providers should make sure they’re choosing a system that’s geared toward organizations like them, or is at least flexible enough to meet different groups’ specific needs.

5. Check the vendor, too

When implementing an EHR system, a hospital isn’t just choosing a piece of software — it’s also partnering with the vendor. The software provider must offer support when there are problems with the system, and many can also help train end users on how to use the system.

To make sure the vendor will be responsive when the hospital needs support, the organization can check with vendor references and ask how how the company has handled questions and maintenance issues.

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