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Special Feature

Digital dilemma

Experts provide tips on purchasing electronic health records systems.

By Phil Colpas

D

riven by CCHIT certification, meaningful use and ARRA/HITECH incentive programs, the purchase of electronic health records/ electronic medical records systems is loom- ing large on many hospitals’ horizons – most likely for this fi scal year. According to a report recently released by the Ameri- can College of Physicians, “Increasing the use of quality measurement as part of EHR systems is critical to achiev- ing meaningful use of health information technology.” For our annual resource guide issue, Health Management

Technology reached out to several experts to fi nd out what is most important when considering the purchase of an EMR/EHR system. “Clearly, the biggest driver of EMR/EHR interest and adoption is the stimulus package and the realization that there is assistance to pay for technology that can improve clinical and fi nancial outcomes – and the looming reality of penalties for non-adoption,” says Betty Otter-Nickerson, president of Sage Healthcare.

Questions about meaningful-use requirements are a potential stumbling block for prospective EMR/EHR buyers.

Says Steven Emery, director of product management,

HealthPort, “Physicians are receiving a lot of messages about using government funding to pay for EMRs/EHRs. Yet many, if not most, are hesitant to purchase systems under these con- ditions, because the meaningful-use requirements are somewhat daunting. Many physicians are holding off until they understand the fi nal rule on what they will be required to do if they accept this money, and also to make sure they are choosing a vendor with staying power and the technology that will allow them to meet these requirements.” Rohit Nayak, vice president of physician technology solutions, MedPlus, agrees that meaningful-use reim- bursements remain the largest impetus for EMR/EHR purchase, while patients and payers are key infl uencers in the decision to adopt.

Steven Emery

12 June 2010

Money talks

Funding is a main driving force in determining whether to buy, accord- ing to Glenn Keet, president, Axolotl. “There are many knowledgeable consultants who focus their efforts on researching what differentiates HIE and EMR/EHR vendors,” he says. “These consultants are able to assist in fi nding the right vendor to fi t anyone’s needs.”

Rohit Nayak

Selecting an EMR/EHR from so many vendors com- peting in the marketplace can be daunting; it’s what Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion, calls “analysis paralysis.”

“It is so diffi cult to get price quotes and demos from most vendors,” Howard says. “It’s a confusing process for buyers, especially those who may be looking at health IT for the fi rst time.”

Rick Jung, chief operations offi cer of Medsphere Sys- tems, states that many U.S. hospitals can’t afford EHR systems. “If they could, more ... hospitals would have an EHR today after 20 years of marketing,” he says. “They can’t afford the huge upfront costs and the regular add-ons for interfaces, upgrades and support that make it impos- sible to determine the true total cost of ownership.” Because of this, it is important to ask vendors to disclose the full cost of the EMR/EHR, explains Howard. “Some vendors may present an initial licensing fee, but there may be other hidden costs for training, support or updates,” he says. “These costs can add up in a short period of time.” All of the vendor experts we interviewed for this article say their products offer support for the transi- tion from ICD-9 to ICD-10, as well as maintenance and technical support for their customers. Cost of systems and timeframe of implementation all vary widely, depending on the size of the practice and number of locations and providers.

Ryan Howard

HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY

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