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Hospital EMR Buyer Loyalty May Be Shaky

Posted on February 22, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

When it comes to investing in enterprise software, just about any deal can turn sour. If you’re acquiring a mission-critical platform, there’s an even bigger risk involved, and the consequences of failure are typically dire. So any company making such a purchase may feel trapped after the contract is signed and the die has been cast.

One might hope that when hospital and health systems buy an EMR — probably the most expensive and critical software buy they’ll make in a decade — that they feel comfortable with their vendor. Ideally, hospitals should be prepared to switch vendors if they feel the need.

In reality, however, it looks like many hospitals and health systems feel they’re trapped in their relationship with their EMR vendor. A new study by research firm Black Book has concluded that about a solid subset of hospitals feel trapped in their relationship with their EMR vendor. (Given what I hear at professional gatherings, I’m betting that’s on the low side, as their EMR has driven so many hospitals deep into debt.)

Anyway, Black Book compiles an HIT Loyalty Index which assesses the stability of vendors’ customer base and measures those customers’ loyalty. For its current batch of stats, Black Book drew on 2,077 hospital users, asking about their intentions to renew current contracts, recommend their inpatient EMR/HIT vendor to peers and the likelihood of their buying additional products like HIE and RCM tools from their existing vendors.

The results shouldn’t give any great pleasure to HIT vendors. All told, loyalty to inpatient EMR/HIT vendors fell 6%, from 81% to 75% committed clients. While it’s not horrible to have 75% truly happy with your product, this is not a metric you want to see trending downward.

When you combine these numbers with other signs of dissatisfaction, the picture looks worse. Roughly 25% of respondents said that they were only loyal to their vendor because they were forced to follow administrative directives. And as we all know, ladies and gents of the vendor world, you can’t buy love. These 25% of dissatisfied professionals will do their job, but they aren’t going to evangelize for you, nor will they be quick to recommend more of your products.

All is not bleak for EMR vendors, however. Some HIT vendors saw year-to-year growth in hospital client loyalty. Vendors with the biggest loyalty increases included Allscripts, Cerner, CPSI, NTT Data and athenahealth/RazorInsights.

By the way I noted, with a touch of amusement, that mega-costly Epic doesn’t appear on the latter list. Just sayin’.

EMR Usability A Pressing Issue

Posted on January 29, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A few months ago, in a move that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, the AMA and MedStar Health made an interesting play. The physicians’ group and the health system released a joint framework designed to rank EMR usability, as well as using the framework to rank the usability of a number of widely-implemented systems.

What makes these scores interesting is not that they’re just another set of rankings — those are pretty much everywhere — but that the researchers focused on EMR usability. As any clinician will tell you (and many have told me) despite years of evolution, EMRs are still a pain in the butt to use. And clearly, market forces are doing little to change this. Looking at where widely-used systems rate on usability is a refreshing look at a neglected issue.

To score the EMRs, researchers dug into EMR vendor testing reports from ONC. This makes sense. After all, though the agency doesn’t use this data for certification, the ONC does require EMR vendors to report on user-centered design processes they used for eight capabilities.

And while the ONC doesn’t base EMR certifications on usability, my gut feeling is that the data source is pretty reliable. I would tend to believe that given they’re talking to a certifying authority, vendors are less like to fudge these reports than any they’d prepare for potential customers.

According to the partners, Allscripts and McKesson were the highest-scoring EMR vendors, gaining 15 out of 15 points. eClinicalWorks was the lowest-scoring EMR, getting only 5 of 15 possible points. In-betweeners included Cerner and MEDITECH, which got 13 points each, and Epic, which got 9 points.

And here’s the criteria for the rankings:

  • User Centered Design Process:  EMRs were rated on whether they had a user-centered design process, how many participants took part (15+ was best) and whether test participants had a clinical background.
  • Summative Testing Methodology: These ratings focused on how detailed the use cases relied upon by the testing were and whether usability measures focused on appropriate factors (effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction).
  • Summative Testing Results:  These measures focused on whether success rates for first-time users were 80% or more, and on how substantive descriptions of areas for improvement were.

Given the spotty results across the population of EMRs tested, it seems clear that usability hasn’t been a core concern of most vendors. (Yes, I know, some of you are saying, “Boy howdy, we knew that already!”)

Perhaps more importantly, though, it can be inferred that usability hasn’t been a priority for the health systems and practices investing in these products. After all, some of the so-so ratings, such as that for the Epic product, come from companies that have been in the market forever and have had the time to iterate a mature, usable product. If health systems were demanding that EMRs be easy to use, the scores would probably be higher.

Frankly, I can’t for the life of me understand why an organization would invest hundreds of millions of dollars (or even a billion) dollars in an EMR without being sure that clinicians can actually use it. After all, a good EMR experience can be very attractive to potential recruits as well as current clinicians. In fact, a study from early last year found that 79% of RNs see the hospital’s EMR as a one of the top 3 considerations in choosing where to work.

Maybe it’s an artifact of a prior era. In the past, perhaps the health systems investing in less-usable EMRs were just making the best of a shoddy situation. But I don’t think that excuse plays anymore. I believe more providers need to adopt frameworks like this one, and apply them rigorously.

Look, I know that EMR investment is a complex dance. And obviously, notions of usability will continue to evolve as EMRs involve — so perhaps it can’t be the top priority for every buyer. But it’s more than time for health organizations to take usability seriously.

Athenahealth Amps Up Drive To Build Inpatient EMR

Posted on January 26, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

EMR vendor athenahealth has been driving forward for a while now to build a new hospital inpatient system and fight for the big-ticket customers in acute care. Given the intense competition for the acute care EMR dollar, I’m skeptical that athenahealth can wedge its way into the game. But so far, it looks like the vendor is going about things the right way.

athenahealth already offers the athenaOne suite, which includes an ambulatory EMR, revenue cycle management and patient engagement tools. But it seems the ambitious execs there have also decided to participate in the bare-knuckled fight for hospital bucks being duked out between Cerner, Epic, MEDITECH, McKesson and Allscripts. Considering the billions at stake, these acute care giants won’t be gentle. But as the following details suggest, athenahealth may just have enough going for it to slip into place.

Last year, athenahealth got the ball rolling when it struck a co-development deal with Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to create a new inpatient system. The two organizations agreed to kick off the development work at Beth Israel’s 58-bed hospital, which is located in the nearby suburb of Needham, Mass.  The deal makes particular sense given that athena corporate is located in another Boston suburb, Watertown.

To supplement its development efforts, athenahealth also picked up small-hospital EMR vendor RazorInsights and Beth Israel’s home-built webOMR EMR. athena has replaced the RazorInsights EMR with a rebuilt version of its ambulatory athenaClinicals EMR, and integrated it with the RI hospital information system, plus several ancillary systems. This hybrid system is being sold to the small-hospital market.

athenahealth has begun converting webOMR into athenaNet in partnership with the small Needham branch of Beth Israel, working with clinicians and technical staffers to better understand the inpatient care environment.

That agreement alone might have gotten the job done, but athena didn’t stop there. Last week, the vendor announced that it would be partnering with the University of Toledo Medical Center to further speed the development of its inpatient EMR. The agreement clearly builds on the vendor’s prior relationship with the University of Toledo Physicians, which picked up the athenaOne suite in late 2014.

The deal with UTMC will do more than give athenahealth another testbed and development site. This agreement with the health system, which is dumping its McKesson Horizon system by 2018, gives athenahealth a real-life win in a substantial setting. What’s more, given that the medical center is being given the chance to build things to its liking, the new acute-care EMR is unlikely to cost as much over the long-term as, say, Epic support and maintenance.

I must admit that I still see athenahealth’s plans as fairly risky. While it has significant resources, the vendor can’t match those of its big competitors. What’s more, it could lose a great deal if it endangers its strong legacy base of ambulatory users. But if any of the established ambulatory HIT firms have a shot at the bigger deals, this one does. I’m eager to see how this turns out.

RNs are Choosing Where to Work Based on Hospital EHR

Posted on February 27, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I came across this tweet and it made me stop and realize how important the selection and more important the implementation of your EHR will be for your organization. In many areas there’s already a nurse shortage, so it would become even more of an issue if your hospital comes to be known as the hospital with the cumbersome EHR.

Here’s some insight into the survey results from the article linked above:

79% of job seeking registered nurses reported that the reputation of the hospital’s EHR system is a top three consideration in their choice of where they will work. Nurses in the 22 largest metropolitan statistical areas are most satisfied with the usability of Cerner, McKesson, NextGen and Epic Systems. Those EHRs receiving the lowest satisfaction scores by nurses include Meditech, Allscripts, eClinicalWorks and HCare.

The article did also quote someone as saying that a well done EHR implementation can be a recruiting benefit. So, like most things it’s a double edge sword. A great EHR can be a benefit to you when recruiting nurses to your organization, but a poorly done, complex EHR could drive nurses away.

I’m pretty sure this side affect wasn’t discussed when evaluating how to implement the EHR and what kind of resources to commit to ensuring a successful and well done EHR implementation. They’re paying the price now.

Department of Defense (DOD) and Open Source EHR

Posted on February 25, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I was intrigued by a report by the Center for New American Security that was covered in this article on HealthcareDive. In the report, they make a good case for why the Department of Defense (DOD) should select an open source EHR solution as opposed to a commercial solution. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“I think the commercial systems are very good at what they do,” Ondra said. However, “they are not ideally designed for efficiency and enhancement of care delivery, and I think the DOD can do better with an open source system both in the near-term, and more importantly in the long-term, because of the type of innovation and creativity that can more quickly come into these systems.”

Reports like this make a pretty good case for open source. Plus, I love that it also pointed out that commercial EHR vendors were built on the back of the fee for service model which doesn’t matter to the DOD. It was also interesting to think about the DOD’s selection of an open source EHR system as an investment in other hospitals since the money they spend on an open source EHR could help to catalyze the ongoing development of a free open source EHR solution.

While these arguments make a lot of sense, it seems that the DOD has decided not to go with an open source EHR solution and instead is opting for a commercial alternative. In this article (Thanks Paul) the DOD has narrowed the list of contenders for the $11 Billion DOD EHR contract (DHMSM) to just: CSC/HP/Allscripts, Leidos/Accenture/Cerner, and IBM/Epic who “fall within the competitive range.” They reported that PwC/Google/GDIT/DSS/Medsphere and Intersystems did not fall within the competitive range.

I’ll be interested to hear Medsphere’s take on this since every report I’ve ever read has Medsphere and their open source Vista solution as much less expensive than the commercial alternatives (Epic, Cerner, Eclipsys). So, I can’t imagine that the Medsphere bid was so much more than the others. Unless the consultants are charging through the nose for it. Or maybe the open source Vista option wasn’t “in the competitive range” because it was too cheap. Wouldn’t that be hilarious to consider. Hopefully the government isn’t that stupid, but…

I don’t claim to have any clue on how these $11 billion government contract bids work. I’m just a casual observer from the sideline. It seems like 3 companies remain in the ring. I guess the Google juice wasn’t enough for the PwC/Medsphere bid.

Healthcare Analytics is a Big Privacy Issue

Posted on March 18, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Coming out of HIMSS, everyone said that healthcare analytics was a major discussion. I talked to someone from Allscripts today and they quoted me that something like 42% of their business is coming from population health (analytics, patient portal, and HIE) functionality. Today someone else told me that the future of healthcare IT is going to really be around analytics and how we use the data. When you think about future revenue streams, the data is likely going to be the center of most business models.

Analytics is going to play a major role in the future of health IT and I believe will lead to really important improves in the care patients receive. My guess is that one day we’ll look back on the EHR of today and wonder how we saw patients with such limited data and intelligence built into the EHR.

However, Sheri Stoltenberg from Stoltenberg Consulting made a great comment to me at HIMSS which is the title of this blog post: Healthcare Analytics is a Big Privacy Issue.

While we love to talk about the benefits of big healthcare data and the value of healthcare analytics, it’s also got a lot of big privacy issues that I think we’re going to need to address. Many will argue that we already have HIPAA and that should be enough. Certainly it will provide the framework for privacy and security of healthcare data and analytics. However, that’s likely going to need to evolve as the healthcare analytics involves. I’m not sure we even know the issues that healthcare analytics will pose to privacy in 5 years. Unfortunately, I don’t see HIPAA being able to keep up with it.

If the healthcare IT industry were smart, it would start working together and appropriate privacy and security within healthcare analytics. If they don’t, be ready for the government to step in and impose it on them. We know how that usually works out.

Hopefully this blog post will be inspiration for every organization to consider the privacy and security issues associated with their healthcare analytics.

KLAS: Epic Losing Ground To Cerner

Posted on September 6, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

At this point in the EMR buying cycle, one would figure that the market for new hospital EMR purchases is pretty saturated, especially among larger hospitals with the capital to invest in big health IT projects. But according to a recent blog entry from KLAS, that’s not exactly the case.

In his blog item, KLAS researcher Colin Buckley notes that his firm has been watching clinical IT vendor wins and losses at 200+ bed hospitals for 10 years.  During that period — and especially post- Meaningful Use — KLAS has seen a growing number of new hospital EMR contracts.

By this point, after lots of EMR buying, and some switching out technology for second and third-choice EMRs, one might think that over-200-bed hospitals had settled on a platform that they could live with through Meaningful  Use Stage 3. Actually, not quite, Buckley says.

In fact, KLAS data shows that there are more hospitals running legacy EMRs, homegrown EMRs or no EMR at all than those who have bought a currently-marketed solution sometime in the past four years. And it’s likely these hospitals will be choosing a new EMR from the current vendor marketplace within the new few years, KLAS projects.

As sales increase in the 200+ bed hospital segment, market forces are shifting to favor new vendors. What’s particularly noteworthy about this is that the research firm has seen the ratio of Epic-to-Cerner wins shrink from 5-to-1 in 2010 to 2-to-1 in 2012.

According to KLAS, the hospitals that are likely to be out buying new EMRs look different than those which have already bought and implemented the EMR they’ll use for the next several years. “They are smaller and more cost conscious than the large hospital IDNs that have given Epic a lion’s share of wins year after year,” Buckley writes.

With Cerner and Epic busy eating each other’s lunch, Allscripts, MEDITECH, McKesson and Siemens are moving ahead as quickly as possible to roll out integrated ancillary and ambulatory solutions, Buckley notes. In other words, the competition for both ambulatory and hospital EMRs is far from played out.

Despite all of this activity, we are clearly in a late stage of the EMR market as a whole, or as my colleague John Lynn puts it, “the Golden Age of EHR adoption is over.” But if KLAS is right, there’s still some very healthy bucks to be made selling to laggard mid-sized hospitals. Let’s see if vendors used to serving hospital giants can adapt in time.

KLAS Reports Cerner and Epic Combined to Capture More Than 3/4 of New Large Hospital EMR Contracts

Posted on August 28, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This tweet and associated messages are circling all around social media. Here’s the short description of the KLAS report:

HITECH has drastically changed the acute care EMR market. Previous industry mainstays like GE Healthcare and QuadraMed have effectively dropped out. McKesson has promoted their community hospital solution, Paragon, over their former flagship, Horizon. Allscripts, MEDITECH, and Siemens are all racing to recover from past stumbles and regain market share. Since meaningful use became a reality, Cerner and Epic have captured a large majority of new hospital contracts. However, there are still many decisions to be made in coming years and the remaining market is potentially more competitive than in years past.

For those of us following the industry, this isn’t really big news. Cerner and Epic have been battling for the big hospitals for quite a while. In fact, coming out of this year’s HIMSS I was more interested in the battle for small hospitals than large hospitals. Of course, we’ll see how hospital consolidation affects this as well.

What does seem clear and this report confirms is that Epic and Cerner all well positioned in the large hospital EMR market. I predict they’ll dominate until at least the end of meaningful use.

CommonWell Alliance Goals Challenged By ONC

Posted on April 8, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

As virtually everyone in health IT knows, HIMSS saw the dawning of a new EMR vendor alliance which proposes to make health data exchange simpler.  The group, the CommonWell Alliance, includes McKesson, Cerner, Allscripts, Greenway and athenahealth, plus McKesson’s connectivity business RelayHealth.

Now that the PR fairy dust has settled and we’re talking serious business, it’s a good time to consider exactly what these vendors hope to accomplish, as we’re talking about enough vendor muscle to have a serious impact on the way health data is shared.

This week, ONC released a report doing just that, according to a piece in Government Health IT.  At a meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee on April 3, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Farzad Mostashari, MD and other committee members discussed the report, which raised some hard questions about the Alliance.

According to Government Health IT, the report outlined the following as CommonWell’s chief goals:

  • Enabling providers to unambiguously identify patients – but not with a national patient identifier;
  • Providing a way to match patients with their healthcare records as they transition through care facilities;
  • Using existing unique identifiers (salted/hashed) such as cell phone number, email addresses or driver’s licenses for identity management;
  • Enabling patients to manage consent and authorization;
  • Creating a HIPAA-compliant and patient-centered means to simplify management of data-sharing consents and authorizations, focusing initially on the most common treatment situations;
  • Helping providers to find the location of patient records across care locations via a secure nationwide records locator service;
  • Enabling providers, with appropriate authorization, to issue targeted (directed) queries that provide for peer-to-peer (e.g., EHR to EHR) exchange.

Unlike most standards-setting efforts, members of the group are going to have to pay if they want to participate, a nice little detail that wasn’t made clear when CommonWell was announced.

Though it will be at least a year before CommonWell pilots its approach, members of the Committee are quite appropriately wondering now about the impact of such an effort.

Dr. Mostashari argued that the key question is whether the service will work as an optional overlay across a regional exchange, or whether it requires exclusive participation. Other committee members agreed.

The bottom line for committee members, Government Health IT reports, is that they’re willing to take a wait-and-see approach. As for us out here in the peanut gallery, I believe we should challenge the heck out of this thing.

Members of the Health IT Policy Committee are well advised to wonder whether this coming together of powerful HIT vendors could undermine broader efforts to foster interoperability. There’s a lot to look into here, even if the allmighty Epic never joins.

EMR Vendors Need To Get Their Act Together

Posted on March 22, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

For quite some time now, EMR vendors have gotten away with selling products that aren’t very usable and may even pose safety risks. But that’s the price enterprise EMR buyers have been willing to pay to jump in and automate. Very soon, though, vendors may be held to a higher standard, a new report from KLAS.

KLAS recently held a bake-off comparing Allscripts, Cerner, Epic, McKesson’s Paragon, Meditech 6 and Siemens’ Soarian EMRs head to head where it comes to usability and efficiency, SearchHealthIT reports. The study looked at how the products worked for individual users, and then looked at how they meet organizational quality of care demands.

Some of the EMRs  — and I wish SearchHealthIT had told us which ones — took a full month for physicians to learn. In some cases, physicians who were willing to take that month ended up with a richer experience than those which were easy and quick to learn, while in other cases, the darned thing still wasn’t usable.  Of course, those with long learning curves and unimpressive features suffered from low physician adoption, the  publication notes.

This is all interesting enough, but what grabbed me about the story was a provider quote from an end user, supplied by KLAS:

“As suggested by the new 2014 certification standards, vendors should take more responsibility for both the usability and safety of their products. These responsibilities shouldn’t be the sole purview of healthcare organizations and providers like they have been until now.”

Could it be that providers have finally gotten to the point where they’re no longer going to put up with unusable products and bring the hammer down even on giants like the big-shouldered group listed above?  After all, so far providers have swallowed hard and accepted a lot of ugly technology.

Maybe Meaningful Use demands are finally giving health organizations the backbone they need to stand up to Jabba the Hutt vendors?