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TEPR Report: Attendance is down — is EMR interest as well?

May 20, 2008
by kate
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Reporters, by nature, are very curious people. We want to know what people are saying, even when they’re not talking to us. Actually, we sometimes find that the best pieces of information aren’t those that are necessarily given to us, but… well… overheard. On day 2 of TEPR, I wanted to know what attendees thought of the show and whether others had noticed the seemingly low number of attendees.

So while I was checking my email at one of the hotspots — which, by the way, were the only places where you could access the Internet at the conference — I listened carefully to those at nearby tables while trying not to look like too much of a snoop. And as I suspected, there was quite a bit of speculation on the decreased attendance and the high number of cancelled sessions.

TEPR has been around for 25 years — so why does it seem like it may be on the decline? It might be the fact that there are just too many shows that offer more bang for your buck (and have wireless in the press room).

Or, there might be more to it than that. Is the show’s low attendance a reflection of the fact that EMR adoption still isn’t where it should be? Depending on where you get your numbers, somewhere between 20 and 28 percent of practices in the U.S. are on board, which still leaves a sizeable portion relying on paper records.

Jack Callahan, vice president of corporate development at MediNotes, cited a few key reasons for this, the first of which is the steep cost of CCHIT certification. Callahan points out that the number of companies that earned CCHIT recognition fell significantly from 2006 to 2007, and he expects it to go down again in 2008. The other big issue, according to Callahan, is the consolidation of EMR vendors, something that may become even more commonplace in the coming months if the economy continues to weaken. And if providers aren’t sure whether a company is going to be around in a year, they aren’t going to jump at the chance to invest big dollars with it.

James Saul, MD, who has a private practice in Ohio in addition to serving as medical informatics physician advisor for Parma Community General Hospital, said he had serious doubts before deploying the EMR from Spring Medical Systems four years ago, and can understand completely why some doctors aren’t willing to make the leap.

Saul was unsure about the changes in the workflow and was very hesitant to make such a big investment on a product that he feared would take too long to yield any kind of return. As it turned out, he had a good experience with his EMR and wouldn’t think of going back to the old way. But he remembers the decision being a risky one, and clearly, he isn't alone in that thinking.

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