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Driven by Meaningful Use

February 21, 2011
by David Raths
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Analysts, CIOs explain motivations behind scores in “2010 Top 20 Best in KLAS Awards: Software & Professional Services” report
Jason Hess
Jason Hess

Press releases from software vendors announcing contract wins often describe their customer as a new “partner.” More than ever before, that description is proving accurate as providers of acute-care electronic medical record systems and their customers work closely to meet meaningful use requirements and help hospitals qualify for federal incentive funds under the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act/Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (ARRA-HITECH) Act. For many, millions of dollars are riding on the success or failure of their meaningful use efforts.

“We definitely are seeing fewer customers considering switching vendors, specifically in the larger hospitals and health systems,” says Jason Hess, general manager of clinical research at KLAS. “We're still seeing buying decisions take place in the smaller community hospitals, but for those larger hospitals and health systems, their beds are made.” The electronic medical records (EMRs) are now firmly implanted, and in most cases, it is too late to swap out systems.

So does that mean there's less activity on the software front in this year's “Top 20 Best in KLAS Awards: Software & Professional Services” report? On the contrary: the HITECH Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the federal healthcare reform law, are like two tectonic plates pushing on each other and forcing the healthcare sector in several new directions at once.

The rush to get systems and features in place to earn 2011 meaningful-use dollars has been a boon to some vendors, and has exposed the Achilles' heels of others, leading to some dramatic shifts in customer perceptions of EMRs, as well as of several related modules.

Acute Care EMR

Companies seeing upticks in their scores include Epic (+2 percent) and Cerner (+3 percent), which have earned reputations for strong computerized physician order entry (CPOE) implementations, Hess notes. “Even Meditech, which has traditionally been a little challenged on CPOE, has been getting early strong marks for physician friendliness in the 6.0 version.”

Mike Mistretta
Mike Mistretta

Bobbie Byrne, M.D., vice president for health information technology at the 309-bed Edward Hospital, in Naperville, Ill., says those early reports of satisfied customers with 6.0 make her cautiously optimistic about her organization's plans to go live on that platform in May. “The challenges I foresee with Meditech are not those bread-and-butter applications, but new features being driven by meaningful use, such as public health reporting, patient portals, and health information exchange,” she says. Those were on her list of things to do, but not necessarily in 2011, she adds.

Although Meditech does remain the most-considered vendor in community hospitals, Hess notes, Cerner's hosted offering is making in-roads, and McKesson's Paragon continues to lead the customer rankings.