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This article is part of our Essential Guide: EHR interoperability, regulations top patient record concerns

Top reasons why providers go the EHR replacement route

Ready to begin the EHR replacement process? Check our expert's criteria to see if your situation mirrors what other providers went through.

The use of electronic health records is a must for most modern healthcare organizations. There are far fewer practicing...

physicians without EHRs than those who use electronic charts. The increased adoption of EHRs has significantly contributed to the growth of health IT.

Some physicians learned they need to stay flexible when operating in the world of health IT because not all EHR systems are created equal. Despite the high cost of undergoing an EHR replacement, some healthcare organizations have faced the challenging task of dropping one EHR platform for another.

Swapping out one of the core healthcare systems that documents patients' clinical, billing, scheduling and registration information is a demanding process. Not only will it have a significant financial impact, but patient care can be disrupted during the transition period. After weighing those possibilities against their dissatisfaction with the functionality of their existing EHR, some physicians concluded that switching their EHR will be better for their patients and their organization in the long term.

Signs that precede an EHR replacement

Some of the common reasons why physicians and healthcare professionals consider switching EHR systems are:

Lack of data clarity and reporting capabilities: Patient data and associated reports are likely to be a part of most healthcare initiatives. So when physicians realize their current systems are not flexible or open enough to make use of all the data available to them. Healthcare providers are hard-pressed to continue to use systems that restrict them from doing things, such as data analytics, that have become necessary in today's technological environment.

Unchanged application that lacks enhancements: If a provider is running a system that looks the same way it did 10 or 15 years ago, that's a clear indication the application vendor isn't investing in enhancing its product. If a vendor isn't introducing patient portals or making its products able to integrate with other systems, those are also indications the vendor is keeping its system in maintenance mode. This will cause physicians to miss out on some of the advancements that innovative EHR vendors have offered their clients over the years. Most of today's top EHR vendors frequently release upgrades to address bugs and performance issues.

Absence of system certification: The introduction of the meaningful use program meant that healthcare providers had to adopt a certified EHR system to be eligible for federal incentive payments. This also affected EHR vendors because they had to be certain their products met the system requirements set forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services before selling them to providers. Some vendors elected not to get their systems certified. That choice drove some physicians to consider switching systems qualify for EHR incentive payments.

Poor system scalability: When performance issues arise with health IT systems, physicians often take issue with the lack of speed of the system. This sluggishness affects patient care during a care episode and the productivity of physicians and staff. There are many reasons why a system performs poorly. Sometimes it's simply due to a lack of scalability of the database being used, as well as the technical limitations caused by the product development and design process. Some medical practices naturally outgrow their platform and must subsequently endure the EHR replacement process. Unless vendors address their customers' challenges as they come up, then those practices have no choice but to consider switching products.

Jump to a new system due to acquisition or merger: When a medical practice joins a larger health system or two organizations merge, it's common for the newly-formed entity to require all parties to operate on the same system. In the case of an acquisition, the system used by the purchasing company usually wins out. When practices merge, it provides a chance for both sides to evaluate which of their systems would most benefit the new organization.

Increase in health IT costs: IT budgets continue to grow, and for good reason. There is a constant demand for more computing resources, software systems, devices and technology investments. This increase in technology hasn't caused a similar spike in reimbursement payments. Budget constraints force some groups to constantly reevaluate their current EHR platform when upgrades and systems refreshes are needed. During that time, some may consider alternatives such as cloud or other products that have lower upfront costs.

Switching systems may appear to be a difficult and disruptive transition, but it is the right move in many cases. Healthcare organizations shouldn't neglect evaluating their current systems and determine whether there's a preferable alternative on the market.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story or if you've chosen to implement an EHR replacement; email editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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This was last published in August 2015

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