Practices hesitant to invest in electronic health records software have cause for concern. The more physicians speak out about their struggles with these systems, the riskier it feels to get one of your own.
That said, the future of medical care will be fueled by tech and the best way for your practice to have long-term success is to resist the urge to stay paper-based.
Below we’ve flagged common problems among EHR systems along with advice on how to overcome them so you can feel confident about your decision to go digital.
The Software Advice team regularly connects with practices like yours looking for new software, so we identified these problems by asking your peers. We analyzed a random selection of 400 of these interactions to uncover the biggest pain points of physicians who use EHRs and want to switch to a different system.
What are the disadvantages of EHRs?
After examining 400 medical provider conversations around finding new EHR software, we learned that the most common reasons they gave for needing to find a new EHR system were:
- Integrations issues—encompassing a wide variety of problems, all related to connecting EHRs with other medical software systems such as billing, practice management, or e-prescribing.
- Cost—the amount of money practices spend on monthly fees, trainings, or customer support.
- Software usability—meaning instances of EHRs being overly-complex, cumbersome, or not user-friendly.
Before we discuss these top three pain points, I want to make one blanket recommendation that can go a long way to address a lot of issues that aren’t listed here:
Ask questions. Ask so many questions.
Request product demos for the EHR systems you’re interested in, and take full advantage of that one-on-one opportunity to ask the sales rep as many questions as you can think of. Keep a running list of questions that you know matter to you (e.g. does this provider offer specialty-specific functionality? What kind of customer support does this system provide? How often do they roll out updates and will you have to pay extra for them? Etc.)
With that, let’s get into some of the more specific solutions to our top three EHR disadvantages.
Overcoming integration challenges
We’ve grown tired of our current system as it forces us to use partners for billing and therefore, two separate systems. This creates extra work that we would prefer to avoid with a fully integrated system.
Finding the best software solution doesn’t always mean a single, all-in-one system. There are plenty of deployment and integration options out there, meaning the perfect system could be a suite of standalone systems instead of one all-encompassing system.
For example, you might find an EHR system that has a dedicated practice management module built into it, but you’ll need a standalone scheduling system and outsourced billing to supplement. That’s ok! The trick is to find whatever arrangement of software works for you.
Now, with that said, the most common reason doctors cited for seeking new EHR software was a lack of integration with other systems—mainly billing.
If you outsource your billing and you’re entirely happy with that, you don’t need to worry about finding an EHR with billing functionality.
If your billing is done in-house, though, things start to get complicated. You need an EHR that has the latest ICD codes as well as dedicated features to support claims submission. The best way to find an EHR that plays nicely with billing is to figure out what revenue cycle features you need and then make sure any EHR you look at has them.
And the same goes for any other integration you might want. Loads of systems come with integrated practice management, billing, scheduling, e-prescribing, and other feature sets, so all you have to do is make a list of the ones you must have and check with providers before settling on your new EHR.
Overcoming cost challenges
I need to make sure I’m using the most value-driven system possible. I moved to the pay model for [current system], but I’m not sure the program offers the best value on the market. Now I’m exploring alternatives to see what program fits my needs and budget best.
Yeah, I know you’re not surprised to see this one on the list, and neither am I. Software is expensive, whether you’re buying a perpetual license up-front or going with a cloud-based model with a monthly fee.
The solution here is no different from overcoming budgetary issues in any other area: You just have to shop around.
There are free EHR options out there, along with open-source systems that can be a great choice for the tech-savvy. Starting with one of these free options is a great way to dip your toe in the EHR waters and learn exactly what works for you and what doesn’t.
There are also some low cost systems available with great user reviews, so it’s really just a matter of finding the best system within your budget.
To get started, download our pricing guide to see how much popular systems typically cost.
Overcoming usability challenges
Overall we find our current system to be very labor-intensive, cumbersome, and overly complex for our needs. Our current system requires many additional steps to meet MIPS and MACRA measures. Now we’re exploring a more simplified and user-friendly solution to make an easy transition.
Do you want to guess how annoying it is to realize after you’ve invested in a new software system that the people you bought it from aren’t really interested in helping you implement it? It’s really annoying. So annoying that it made a fifth of our callers reach out to us to try and replace that system.
But this one is a bit trickier to avoid when researching software because, honestly, no sales rep is going to tell you they won’t provide customer support after you buy from them.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask, though. It just means you shouldn’t take their answer at face value. In the demo, bring the topic around to training and customer support and then ask exactly how they provide it. Do they give their users a phone number to call when issues pop up? If so, is it manned 24/7? Do they ever send technicians out to solve problems in the office? What kind of training sessions will their team lead if you buy from them?
You’ll also want to rely on what other users are saying. Our FrontRunners are selected and ranked based on user reviews, and every product listed there meets a standard EHR market definition that includes required features such as charting, decision support, and coding assistance.
Further resources for researching EHR systems
Hopefully addressing these three top EHR disadvantages has helped you see how it’s possible to invest in EHR that can work with—not against—your practice’s workflows. For further reading check out these useful articles:
- EHR vs. EMR—What’s the Difference?
- In It for the Long Haul: Switch to an EMR System You Love
- EMR Pricing Explained: Your Guide to Upfront, Recurring & Hidden Costs
- 3 EHR Selection Criteria for Your Independent Practice
- Mitigate Malpractice Mistakes: 3 Risks Associated With EHR Implementation