I have been hearing from an increasing number of physicians and practices that they have been turned down by the EHR vendor of their choice or are faced with a long wait time before the vendor can install the system. All of the practices I have heard from were relatively small (under 10 physicians) and in areas that were rural or logistically difficult to reach. As these are just anecdotal observations (and may be coincidence), there are reasons to suspect that many EHR vendors are struggling to deal with the demand from practices wishing to adopt an EHR. A couple of weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Resources announced that data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed a twenty percent increase in EHR adoption since their last survey in 2009. You can find the NCHS report here. When combined with the results of a recent AmericanEHR Partners EHR survey that showed 10 EHR products were being used by 78% of the physicians taking the survey (AmericanEHR Partners Market Share and Top 10 Rated Ambulatory EHR Products by Practice Size), it is understandable that many of the most popular vendors simply have more business than they can handle and are prioritizing their implementations and sales efforts accordingly.
So what should you do if you are turned down or cannot have the system implemented for a year? First, take this as an opportunity to reassess why you wanted that specific system. Were there other top contenders that you were considering before you made your decision? Don’t forget to take a look at some of the smaller EHR systems. The survey results presented on AmericanEHR Partners (http://www.americanehr.com/find-an-ehr/ehr-vendor-directory.aspx) show that many of the smaller/midsize vendors have strong ratings for both usability and customer support. However, you should balance the fact that, while there are more than 600 EHR products that have now received an ONC-ATCB certification, and while many may have innovative products, you want to be sure the companies are stable and that you expect they will get you through the multiple stages of Meaningful Use and healthcare reform.
If you decide to wait for an EHR product to become available, ensure your practice is ready for the implementation. As eligible providers rush to take advantage of the incentive money offered through the Meaningful Use Incentive Program, many of their practices are shortcutting their preparation. Work through all of the questions in our EHR Readiness Assessment tool, and remember that you can repeat the test at any time and view your previous results by navigating to “My Account.” Also consider implementing some standardized charting forms. Using standardized forms can help you become comfortable with template-based documentation, while making it simpler to find the information you will need for chart conversion. ACP has developed several forms that you are welcome to use (http://www.acponline.org/running_practice/practice_management/forms/matrix.htm), but it matters less which forms you use than the process by which you use them.
Let us know if you have been turned down by an EHR vendor of choice! If so, what have you done as a result?
This post is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the American College of Physicians (ACP). ACP does not endorse a specific EHR brand or product and ACP makes no representations, warranties, or assurances as to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided herein.