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Making the Switch: Is It Time To Replace Your EHR?

Guest Editorial by Michael W. Jakovcic

The federal incentives made available through the HITEC Act are driving thousands of practices to adopt EHRs. All too many times practices feel the need to rush the process, only to realize that the system they have just implemented does not meet their needs. It is important to have a clear mind and an overall goal when purchasing an EHR. Those stuck with an underperforming model need to start looking for a solution that can assure a rapid and smooth implementation, guarantee Meaningful Use reimbursement, and provide the support needed over time to ensure your practice succeeds financially and operationally.

For physicians who are slow to act, the continual use of their underperforming system is prohibiting them from providing quality healthcare and receiving the available HITEC Act incentives. With all of the time, energy, and costs involved in the implementation process, it is essential to have an in EHR in place that delivers results and allows for physicians to focus on patient care. If you’re thinking about replacing your current EHR, consider the following questions to determine if EHR replacement is right for you:

Are there any issues due to your practice’s technical capabilities?

Does your staff fully understand how to properly use the system? If not, call your vendor or contact an EHR consulting firm to come in and re-train your employees — the consulting firm will be the cheaper of the options. The possibility of change management and organization restructuring can also be a possibility at this time.

How is your relationship with the vendor?

If needed, will the vendor commit to making the technological improvements in a reasonable time frame? If your vendor is non-responsive or slow to act on your questions, needs, and concerns, it is time to find a new vendor. It is critical — now more than ever — to have a relationship that is mutually beneficial and where they are committed to your success.

Is your current EHR vendor stable enough to be in business for the long haul?

New EHR vendors are coming to market every day. It is important that you choose a vendor who is publicly held and financially stable. The last thing you need is to purchase and implement a system only to find out that your vendor is going out of business. Pick a big player in a big game.

Can your practice achieve Meaningful Use and reach your goals with the current EHR system in place?

Every eligible provider should have a goal set out to receive as much of the Meaningful Use incentives as possible. If the current EHR system is holding your organization back from earning incentives, improving quality of care, and reducing costs, switching to a new system can definitely be worth it.

Is your current system negatively impacting productivity and quality of care?

If your EHR system is not saving you time and negatively affecting the quality of care you’re providing, it is time to make the switch. Keeping an EHR that hinders performance will continue to reduce productivity and will only get worse as new health reform initiatives are released.

What penalties apply if you terminate the contact?

If you’re looking to make the switch before the contract expires on your current EHR system, review the termination clause to find out what it will cost if you decide to move ahead with a new vendor. This should not be a deterrent because in many cases it is well worth the cost.

It’s important not only to seek out a solution that satisfies your needs, but also one where the deployment is as quick, smooth, and painless as possible. Request demos from your considered EHR vendors, ask how long it will take for an implementation team to be set up for the project, and see if they will do the data migration for you. Many practices will decide to hire consultants for the EHR selection process in order to keep focus on their patients and their day-to-day activities, as this could become a burdensome process for some. Once the switch is made and you’ve committed yourself to the new system, you should be capable of achieving Meaningful Use, receiving federal incentives, improving patient care, and contributing to a better workflow.

Michael W. Jakovcic is E.V.P. Fusion Consulting, Healthcare Division

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