We read and watch EHR user testimonials about how successful the EHR is in the physician’s medical practice.  However, we never hear about unsuccessful EHR installations.  Are there many EHR failures?  If so, why do we not hear about them?

Research shows that nearly as many EHR installations that were deployed were also unsuccessful.  Unfortunately, many companies do not want to share the unsuccessful installation stories because it will negatively affect their EHR.  However, it is of importance for you as a buyer to be aware of unsuccessful installations and understand why many installations are doomed to fail. 

Some reasons why installations are unsuccessful include:

1.       The EHR systems were abandoned because the practice was unable to use it effectively.

2.       Integration issues/incompatibilities.

3.       Technical or functional shortcomings.

4.       Too complicated and expensive.

With that stated above, there are many precautions that you can take to ensure you will receive a great EHR system for your practice.  It is of extreme importance to do your homework before choosing an EHR vendor.

First, consider what type of system you want to use – – a web-based application (aka Software-as-a Service, SaaS) or an on-premise client server.  Be sure to find out what would happen to your patient data in worst case scenarios (i.e. EHR Vendor bankruptcy) and ensure that all of the information will be protected.

With the Industry facing major downsizing, make sure that you are looking at financially stable and secure companies.  In order to research this information, read public disclosures, press releases, annual reports (if a public company), etc.  Determine if the EHR has meets the criteria for functionality, security and interoperability.  One method of reviewing the criteria is to visit the certifying body, the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT).  Another method is to visit the EHR vendor websites, which usually will state that the product is compliant with the HITECH Act.

Second, analyze the installation process with each EHR vendor.  Determine the actual installation process.  Some EHRs can be up and running within two weeks, while some take months to install.  A good way to gauge the timing is to review products that have been ‘live’ for a few years because these vendors will have a better benchmark.  In addition, you will be more likely to receive several references of practices that have used the EHR product.  Follow up with the references about any questions you may have concerning implementation, maintenance and support, productivity issues, etc.  These are the people that will be honest with you and are not trying to sell you.

Also be sure to include your staff in the selection process – most importantly your HIM coders.  You want everyone to feel comfortable with the product and ensure that it has all of the functionality that is needed for daily tasks.

Ask about how the EHR will improve the overall practice productivity.  EHR vendors should have productivity statistics as well as ROI statistics.  This is a key element because several of the smaller practices feel that the initial implementation investment is too large and they simply do not have the budget to maintain such a costly product.

Demo. Demo. Demo.  Make sure to receive EHR demonstrations so you are able to look at the system’s design/interface.  You want to feel familiar with your product BEFORE purchasing.  Many practices want to look for something that is ‘easy’ and this is the best way to determine if it works for your practice.

The information above provides suggestions that you should consider when reviewing EHR solutions.  Just remember, preparation is essential to ensure that you will have a successful EHR implementation.