Community Hospitals Want Usability In EHR Systems

There is a trend in healthcare right now. The HITECH Act and Meaningful Use guidelines have made electronic health records a must at every medical facility from the nonprofit clinic to the mainstream networks, but their first generation platforms are leaving them dissatisfied and frustrated.

The trend right now among physicians is to replace their current systems with upgrades that are friendlier and mobile-ready, according to market research company Software Advice.

As it turns out that itch goes beyond the clinician who runs his or her own practice. A study issued by research group peer60 asked community hospitals how they felt about their current EHR software and their future plans for replacements.

Takeaways From the Survey

The research company polled 277 community hospitals. They found 54 percent of these health care providers were unhappy with their current EHR platforms with around 20 percent actively shopping for replacements. The estimated sales of EHR systems are expected to peak this year at around 9.3 billion dollars as medical businesses around the world look to upgrade.

More than half of the surveyed hospitals have completed Stage 2 attestment. Thirty-six percent are still in the middle of attestment and 11 percent have yet to start. Many of those who are lagging behind say their vendor is not ready to move forward yet.

The two top complaints by community hospitals were:

  • Basic usability – 54 percent
  • Missing functionality – 53 percent

Around 28 percent said their vendors failed to support strategic objectives. Poor service and reliability were listed as problem areas, as well.

Why the Struggle?

The complex documentation necessary with EHR is putting a strain on the medical system. The report states that while many of the community hospitals are well into Stage 2 attestment, but they are struggling with disrupted workflows and poor system functionality. Many feel that vendors got caught up in the complexity of the reporting requirements and lost sight of the base usability of these programs.

Hospital consolidation is a large part of the problem, too. Health networks are swallowing up small community hospitals, so they are going through a merger process while trying to deal with a sub par EHR program at the same time. About seven percent of the community hospitals surveyed for the peer60 report were in the middle of a merger.

Tips for Finding a Replacement

There wasn’t much information to work with during the design process of the first software systems, but community hospitals have more flexibility this time around. There are a few key things they should look for in a new system.

With the transition to ICD-10 on the horizon, the new program should already be compliant.
One of the top features requested by those shopping for new software is a billing application. This can be a cost-saving benefit, especially for community hospitals that pay a third party medical billing service. The right program can cut that cost by bringing billing in-house. Look for EHR software that includes insurance verification, payment posting and collection reports.
Customizable templates improve the functionality of the system for each department. Some vendors offer premade templates for specialties, but the ability to customize them enhances the usability even more.

Patient tracking is a highly sought after function, as well. Look for programs that include monitoring assessments, treatment plans, progress notes and initial evaluations to leverage patient data and create value-based reimbursement models.
As with most high-tech industries, EHR systems will only continue to improve as the needs of the users become apparent. EHR is a consumer-driven industry now that providers know what they need.