Technology is constantly changing. Especially within the healthcare industry. While you wouldn’t think twice about upgrading your Android or iPhone to take advantage of new features, you would be much more hesitant to change or consolidate your EHR systems (Electronic Health Record). Of course, this makes sense on a fundamental level. Decisions about your EHR systems affect hundreds or even thousands of users, depending on the size of your organization. And the wrong decision can bring productivity to a halt, at least until the dust settles.
Many providers place a lot of weight on their EHR decisions because they have been through so much already. Transitioning from paper to electronic records was a long and tough transition for most health care organizations. At the beginning of the transition, many organizations chose the least expensive and the least intrusive option to minimize the disruption to workflows. These early EHR systems are essentially glorified word processing documents that allow users to free-type patient health information into the computer. They are not that much different from writing information on a sheet of paper.
Older EHR Systems May Soon Phase-Out
Over the next few years, these basic EHR systems will slowly begin to phase out, which means that health care organizations will have to start the hunt for a new EHR system all over again. One of the main factors driving the change is the regulatory environment. The most recent mandate is the 2015 Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT) requirements. The focus of 2015 CEHRT requirements is to ensure users have the appropriate capabilities and functionality to meet quality program requirements, security requirements, and gain momentum with interoperability.
Keeping up with the EHR certification requirements is time-consuming and expensive. This will eventually cause the smaller EHR companies to become extinct. There is also growing pressure on vendors to add new features and benefits. Now that EHR systems are the norm in today’s health care environment, some companies are elevating their products. Advanced features such as interoperability are becoming much more attractive and are more widely available from the large EHR vendors. It is difficult for smaller vendors to keep up.
All these factors are causing disruption in the EHR market, which leaves health care organizations with two options: 1) either wait and see if your EHR system survives the competition or 2) make the decision to proactively start searching for a new vendor and consolidate your disparate EHR systems into a single platform.
Benefits of EHR Consolidation
Now is an opportune time for large health care organizations with facilities on multiple EHR systems to consolidate into one EHR system. Here are a few reasons you should consider consolidation:
- Simplicity. Having practices on different systems creates chaos and confusion. When everyone is on the same system training staff will become much easier.
- Consistency. Consolidating down to one EHR system promotes consistency in documentation and workflows, which can make it easier to close gaps in care. It can also make it easier to share data across practices and facilities.
- Flexibility. Having one EHR system that is shared across all practices and facilities allows for large health systems to seamlessly transfer employees within the system. This is especially beneficial if you have a large internal temp or float staff.
- Cost Savings. In the age of interoperability, maintaining tenuous interfaces between many systems and subsystems is difficult and costly. By consolidating to fewer systems, health care organizations can save on information technology overhead.
- Efficiency. Many organizations have to keep a running list of each practice or facility and which EHR they are using. This can cause a lack of efficiency, especially for the IT department. Reducing the number of EHR systems means fewer customizations, bug fixes, and system maintenance. All of this will help your organization run more efficiently.
These are just a few of the many reasons it might be time to consolidate your EHR systems into a single platform. There are many product offerings out there and it may take some time to find the system that works best for your organization. As you consider your options, be sure to involve the staff in the decision-making process so you can find the system that works best for everyone. Most importantly, talk to the vendor and confirm that they meet regulatory certification requirements before making a commitment.