A new poll by Black Book Rankings indicates that 2013 will be a year of change in the EHR space as providers who have had time to evaluate their EHR systems decide whether or not the technology is truly working for them. EHR replacement is a burgeoning market for up-and-coming software vendors, many of whom are trying to lure clients away from developers too busy with implementation backlogs to work on improving their products. Nearly a quarter of respondents indicated active plans to switch to a new EHR vendor, while a further 8% replied that they are unsatisfied with their current EHR but can’t afford to abandon it.
When asked why they were interested in switching EHR products, providers overwhelmingly noted that their current package did not meet their individual needs. Interestingly, the second most popular reason was a mea culpa: 79% of practices admitted that they did not adequately assess their own needs before choosing a vendor. Specialty concerns, interoperability challenges, and poor module EHR integration also made the list.
Software products are only as good as the support behind them, and many vendors are falling short of client expectations. Survey participants were asked about the top red flags that prompted concern about their vendor’s business practices, and the responses were not encouraging. Uncoordinated senior management was a warning for 26% of potential clients, while 22% found that the vendor’s internal staff hadn’t mastered their own software system. Twelve percent discovered a history of abandoned clients, and 14% were frustrated by product delays. “With unmet expectations in system features, implementations, deliverables and client support issues mounting,  may become the Year of the Great EHR Vendor Switch,” predicts the survey announcement.
Specialist providers, many of whom are already having trouble with meaningful use requirements, were largely unsatisfied by their vendor’s attention to their unique needs. More than 80% of nephrologists, urologists and ophthalmologists reported that their EHR did not meet their basic desires, with gastroenterologists, orthopedists, and immunologists following behind at dissatisfaction rates of higher than 70%. When considering a replacement EHR, 92% of specialists now say that they want clear proof of success before signing a new contract.
Long-term business viability of an EHR vendor was the top “must have” in the survey, with demonstrable return on investment, HIE and patient portal support, and user-friendly interfaces also making the list. Despite the growing focus on mHealth and mobile EHR, only 12% of respondents indicated that mobile applications were a high priority when choosing a vendor. The option for customizable templates and specialty practice usability were also low on the list, despite the widespread dissatisfaction of EHR systems that don’t match the workflow needs of an individual office.
The results indicate a fluid market for EHR products. Providers don’t feel tied to one vendor, even after a significant financial investment. With nearly half of all EHR sales in 2012 intended to replace existing systems, unhappy providers have plenty of options, and aren’t shy about making changes. With an ever-growing number of solutions provided by a rapidly expanding pool of vendors, consumers are in control of their EHR choices, and will continue to seek products adapted to their specific needs.