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Physicians hope to make changes to EHR market

The EHR market is saturated with traditional on-premises options, leaving newer vendors to carefully consider which platforms and customers to target.

The invention of the EHR has caused many physicians to have to bring their work home with them. Because of the amount of time they spend in front of screens during a visit and how long it takes to document a patient encounter in their EHR, some physicians have to complete their patient chart work at home. Some physicians have used this scenario to support their dissatisfaction with the state of the EHR market. Many physicians are hopeful to soon be working with EHR systems that hardly resemble the products available to healthcare professionals today.

Many of today's EHR vendors know they must enhance their clients' experiences within their products. Vendors should focus on meeting meaningful use requirements and usability. The truth is not all of the products in the EHR market can be fixed with a few tweaks; some need to be completely redesigned from the ground up.

EHRs have traditionally been applications that run directly on a personal computer or server-side through a remote session into the EHR application. Sometimes referred to as thick clients, these products are widely used in the hospitals and physician practices. Examples include products in the EHR market from vendors such as NextGen Healthcare Information Systems LLC, AllScripts Healthcare Solutions Inc., Greenway Health LLC, and Epic Systems Corp. These EHRs often necessitate additional maintenance and ongoing client-side upgrades. They may also require significant infrastructure on the server side.

EHR market growth extends to cloud

Vendors recognize the limitations and challenges of thick clients. With those in mind, and considering the success of certain Web-based applications, some EHR vendors built their systems as Web- or cloud-based products. These products have separated themselves in the EHR market and some have been cost-effective documentation options for physicians. The subscription model offered by athenahealth  Inc., Practice Fusion Inc. and HealthFusion Inc. is another alternative to traditional on-premises EHR installations. The adoption of these systems requires very little technological preparation, and that easy implementation is valuable to some providers.

Despite the success of some Web-based EHR platforms, a few vendors have decided to become even more specialized. Physicians today can choose to use a number of different platforms on a daily basis, including iOS devices, Microsoft Windows tablets or laptops, or Android-based hardware. Some EHR vendors are willing to risk narrowing their pool of potential customers by committing to work on one of those platforms. Vendors make that move in an effort to become experts in a smaller area and provide their customers with greater expertise and support.

Other vendors give clients their choice of platforms so the vendors don't alienate a set of users, such as those with mobile devices. There are mobile apps that allow clinicians to interact with EHRs including AllScripts Wand and VitalHub Chart.

There are so many paths to choose from in the EHR market and some software vendors are struggling to decide which platforms to service. They can make a decision based on current adoption numbers in established business areas or take a chance on developing a product for a newer market.

Most healthcare professionals agree that the biggest hurdle facing new EHR vendors is the lack of interoperability. If vendors can't find a way to facilitate the exchange of patient information with their products, they won't exist long enough to worry about finding users and deciding on which mobile platforms their systems should be available.

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