PODCAST: On Electronic Medical Records

EMR OVERVIEW

BY ERIC BRICKER MD

Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are Used by 80-90% of Hospitals and Physician Practices. One Study Found that EMRs Have Lowered Patient Mortality by 0.09%.

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Divorcing your EHR Sytem [A How to Approach]

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Planning for an Escape Hatch

[By Shahid N. Shah MS]

Shahid N. ShahAs a doctor, or physician executive, you will spend weeks or months in the “sales and demo cycle” for selecting an EMR. If you’re lucky you will have time to consider all workflows; if you’re even luckier you will test drive the UI and make sure training goes smoothly.

You will also try to ensure that deployment will be easy.

However, another thing not to forget is to plan how to get out of an application or system after it’s been installed for a while.

It’s Harder to Get Out – Than Get in

Why is getting out important? Every application looks better in a demo than in a working environment and every solution becomes “legacy” sooner or later. Every system will be replaced or augmented at some point in time. The cost of acquisition (“barrier to entry”) is well understood now as something we need to calculate. But the “barrier to exit” or switching cost is something you must calculate at the time you decide what systems to purchase.

If you can’t answer the “how, in 6, 18, or 24 months, will I be able to move on to the next-better technology or system?” question then you’ve not completed your due diligence in the sales cycle. Vendor sales staff are quite reticent to answer the “how do I leave your system” question; you will need to press hard and ask for a plan before signing any contracts.

Some Vendor Queries

When preparing an RFI or RFP, ask vendors specific questions about how easy it is to get out of their technology (rather than just how easy to it is to deploy and interoperate). Put in specific test cases and have your folks consider this fact when they are looking at all new purchases.

Here are some specific factors to consider:

  • Do you own your data or does the vendor? If you don’t have crystal clear statements in writing that the data is yours and that you can do whatever you want with it, don’t sign the contract. Look for a new vendor.
  • Is the database structure and all data easily accessible to you without involving the vendor? If only your vendor can see the data, you’re locked in so be very wary. Find out what database the vendor is using and make sure you can get to the database directly without needing their permission.
  • Are the data formats that the system uses to communicate with other vendors open? If not, you don’t own your data. Be sure that at least CCR and CCD formats are available and that all document data is accessible in standard PDF or MS Office friendly formats. Discrete data should be extractable in XML or HL7.
  • How much of the technology stack is based on industry standards? The more proprietary the tech, the more you’re locked in.
  • Are all the programming APIs open, documented, and available without paying royalties or license costs? If not, when you try to get out you’ll pay dearly.

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EHRs

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