Guest post by Lea Chatham, content marketing manager, Kareo.
In the recent Physicians Practice Technology Survey, sponsored by Kareo, there are two trends that bode well. First, the majority of practices surveyed were independent, and second, there were more positives about EHRs than negatives. It looks like things are finally heading in the right direction.
Ongoing EHR Concerns Linger
That isn’t to say that practices don’t continue to have concerns, however. Nearly 20 percent of those surveyed still don’t have an EHR. The barriers? Implementation, interoperability and cost. And implementation of EHRs is cited as the top technology challenge for practices.
“The transition to an EHR can be hard, especially when practices choose the wrong system the first time and have to go through the process twice,” explains Laurie Morgan, senior partner at Capko and Morgan, a practice management consulting firm. “So it is really important to make the right choice. What we have seen is that the practices that have been on a good system for while do see the value and the workflow benefits. It just takes some time.”
On the flip side though, 57 percent are happy with their choice of vendor, which may mean that we will start to see a slowdown in EHR switching, giving providers a chance to focus on patient care and building their practices. In addition, more than 40 percent say they have seen a return on investment, and even more cite an improvement in efficiency.
For those who are unhappy with their EHR, this is a clear sign that better technology is out there. It is a matter of making sure to choose the right one and implement it correctly. “There are several steps practices can take to make sure they get the right EHR at the right price,” says Tom Giannulli, MD, MS, chief medical information officer at Kareo. “These days most of the affordable cloud-based EHRs will have the basic features so it often comes down to a few special needs and the implementation and training. To help improve satisfaction with the EHR it is really important to take advantage of all training and support and invest the time to get familiar with the system.”
You Can Implement an EHR and Stay Independent
There is some fear that to mitigate cost and the complexity of implementing an EHR—whether for the first time or a switch—the best option might be hospital acquisition. In today’s market there are options that are the right fit for the small budgets of smaller practices.
“The rise of affordable, quality cloud-based EHRs is changing the market and providing more options that smaller practices can fit into their budgets,” adds Dr. Giannulli. “The days of really expensive EHRs that are out of reach for independent practices are gone. And, the newer cloud-based solutions offer the same features like e-prescribing, labs, patient education, portals and meaningful use certification.”
Morgan agrees and suggests that “smaller, independent practices look at the free EHR alternatives first.” She admits that they may not be the best choice for all specialties, but for many they will be just fine. In addition, she points out the next step up are cloud-based systems that charge an affordable monthly fee.
Both Morgan and Dr. Giannulli agreed that practices should remember that hospital acquisition has many implications that go far beyond access to new technology. You may be trading the independence and flexibility you value and getting little in return. It might not be worth it when there are inexpensive EHRs that can save you money in the long term.