Do You Really Want to Switch EHRs?

Kristi Cartwright, Consultant Electronic Health Records (EHR)

If your practice’s staff and practitioners feel a chronic level of frustration with your EHR, you’re not alone; it’s a common dynamic, as most of us got into the healthcare field to play a role in helping patients, not to become IT experts. This frustration frequently leads practices to descend into giving up on their current EHR and feeling that starting over with a different EHR is their only solution.

Is this the wisest, and most effective, course of action that actually solves the problems?  …most often, the answer is no.

Common Complaints with EHRs

Before we look at why changing your EHR may not be the best solution, let’s take a look at typical “pain point” complaints that medical practices have about their current EHR. Do any of these sound familiar?

“It has too many clicks; takes too long to document.”

“It’s too complex; we don’t use all the features.”

“It’s missing features we need.”

“It’s too manual.”

“The reporting software provided doesn’t fit our needs.”

“It costs a lot, we’re paying too much.”

“There are better EHRs out there.”

While these reactions certainly reflect sincere “pain point” experience, the real answers may lie in training, workflow redesign, and optimization/customization of your current EHR, rather than starting over with a new EHR.

What to Consider When Thinking About Changing Your EHR

As tempting as it may sound to just start over by getting a new EHR, of course there are many factors and implications to consider, including:

Current EHR contract status. What kind of contract(s) is your practice locked into with your current EHR provider? There can be ongoing usage licenses, fees for add-ons, service contracts (including onsite, remote, and/or “call center” help), and other funds committed. If you move from your current EHR vendor to a new one, you could potentially end up paying for multiple provider licenses at the same time.

Migrating patient data from your current EHR to a new one. This is one of the biggest headaches in switching EHRs. The transfer is most often done via a database migration, which is not only very costly, but highly disruptive. Normally, data is migrated in stages; for example, on Day 1 of your Go-Live with your new EHR, you might have only half of your records from your previous vendor, and the rest will be migrated the following week. During the migration process, you can’t access the EHR, which means you have to resort to doing everything on paper in the interim; those paper records then have to be manually entered by your staff into the new EHR later. During the process, some items don’t get transferred to the proper place, or might get duplicated or lost. Unfortunately, a smooth transition is few and far between.

Further, there is often a time limit, such as 3 months, after which you’re “cut off;” any of your patient data that you haven’t migrated is no longer available to you from the old vendor. On top of that, your financial data in the old EHR typically doesn’t migrate at all.

Complete re-training on an all-new system. Consider the training, staff satisfaction, and efficiency/accuracy implications of throwing out your current system and starting over with something completely new. The “institutional knowledge” that your staff has with using the current EHR will be essentially wiped out, and everyone will be starting with a “blank piece of paper” to learn a different system. It’s easy to imagine how long it will take to even get back to where you are now with your current EHR.

Can your practice absorb the reduced revenue impact of the transition/down time? Switching EHRs typically requires a lightening of your patient visit schedule to allow for the transition, including complete re-training not only of office staff, but practitioners who must also interact with the EHR. The natural and unavoidable consequence is that some hours of the day currently assigned to patient visits must be sacrificed for the new EHR transition, at all levels of the practice.

Open claims and Quality Program participation/reporting during “down time.” Both of these essential medical practice tasks and data flows are, of course, inextricably intertwined with the daily functioning of your EHR; a transition will significantly interrupt the flow of this data, and in many cases data will be “lost” (such as some denied claims disappearing forever, never to be reworked and reimbursed for).

The Alternative: Use Your Current EHR Better… with Help

The fact is, you’d probably be surprised to discover how much more your current EHR really can do for you. Getting a modest amount of additional training on your current EHR to build on the knowledge and familiarity your staff already has with it, researching the features that are actually in your EHR but not currently used, and automating various functions (such as Denied Claims Management) can make a huge difference – without the major impact on your schedule, revenue, and cost that comes with changing your EHR.

And as you would imagine, expert third-party opinion, knowledge, and assistance can be the bridge that gets you there.

For over 20 years, Medical Advantage has helped medical practices and healthcare organizations to improve their efficiency, profitability, and technology, including EHRs. Our EHR Optimization Team can help transform your current EHR from a source of frustration into a comfortable, productive tool that will enhance your patient care, revenue cycle management, quality reporting, and future success.

Get in touch with us today and learn more about our flexibility to meet your service preferences here in the COVID era, and why this is actually an ideal time to optimize your EHR.

This article was written in collaboration with Jenny Doloresco, Consultant, Medical Advantage and Sarah Saj, Senior Consultant, Medical Advantage.

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