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Many EHR Buyers Looking to Replace Their Current System, Report Says

April 25, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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A growing number of medical practices—40 percent—were looking to replace existing electronic health record (EHR) systems in the first quarter of 2014, according to a recent report from EHR reviewer Software Advice.

The report analyzed a random selection of 385 of the company’s interactions from Q1 2014 to uncover physicians’ most common pain points and their reasons for purchasing new software. In Q1 2010, only 19 percent of the buyers the company spoke to were looking for new software in order to replace an existing EHR system. The majority of buyers were making first-time purchases, transitioning from paper-only to an EHR. But by Q1 2013, the proportion of buyers replacing existing software had jumped to 30 percent. Just one year later, in Q1 2014, that figure has risen to 40 percent—30 percent growth year over year. (Thirty-four percent of buyers are replacing only commercial EHR software, but an additional 6 percent are replacing a combination of commercial EHR software and paper).

Paper remains the most commonly used method for record-keeping among the EHR buyers in the study; 42 percent of the sample were looking to move away from being a paper-only practice. Some buyers demonstrated that simply adopting an EHR doesn’t always mean a practice gets rid of paper altogether. But based on the cited pain points of the buyers, the desire to eliminate paper completely was a major driver for practices currently using a paper-software hybrid charting method, the report found.

Among buyers replacing a commercial EHR product (including those replacing a paper/EHR combination), the most common reasons for doing so are that their current solution is too cumbersome (too slow, requires too many click-throughs, etc.), and/or that they need integration between applications (for example, wanting the EHR to integrate with billing or scheduling functions). A substantial percentage of buyers were also concerned with complying with “government regulations.” Most commonly, this referred to the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs for the meaningful use of EHR software. According to the report, many owners of existing EHR software wanted to replace it in order to attest to meaningful use. This suggests their current systems either weren’t certified for meaningful use attestation, or weren’t allowing the physicians to accomplish meaningful use criteria tasks as successfully as they’d like.

The buyers in the report typically had an idea of what features they’d like an EHR system to include. The most prominent feature requested in the sample was mobile support, with 39 percent of buyers explicitly stating a desire for systems that would allow them access from tablets or smartphones. Some of the buyers in this category expressed great urgency; others simply planned to integrate mobile devices into their practices in the future, and wanted a system that would support such a move when it was time.

Finally, the vast majority of buyers in our sample (89 percent) were interested in EHR software that could integrate with medical billing and/or patient scheduling applications. In other words, they didn't just want a standalone EHR; they wanted an EHR that could facilitate practice management functionalities. Only 9 percent of buyers were looking for a “best-of-breed” EHR, and 2 percent of buyers were open to evaluating either a standalone EHR or an integrated suite.

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