Lessons Learned from Failed EMR Implementations

One of my favorite EMR people, Matt Chase from Medtuity, wrote this interesting comment over on EMR Update.

Times are achanging. I think a recent install is a good example. The group purchased a decently well-known EMR and it failed. So they went with a second well-known EMR and it failed. Both were certified. Both had a very active sales team. The second one flew in some upper level sales people from the coast when there was talk of deinstall.

After spending half of the national debt and a looming closure of the practice, they called in a consultant. He made his recommendation. They did their demo and they asked the really hard questions– show me how to create new clinical content, show me how to create a new template, edit an existing one, how to fax a single encounter to another practitioner, then multiple encounters but not all encounters of a patient, track any lab value over time, send a reminder to a staff member, assign faxes and scans, etc, etc. Their list was very long. They did not want to hear promises and they did not want a canned demo. They wanted to see the software perform the steps that were lacking (but promised present) in their previous software.

The underlying theme here is that practices believe that certification is truly a functional seal of approval. It is not. Secondly, because certification exists and so many EMRs (>450) are certified, it implies a mature product offering– like buying a hard drive or a computer. You can expect certain functionality to be present simply because the maturity of the market would have eliminated the company. Unfortunately, just the opposite is true.

Just this week I learned that a very large practice in our town is out shopping another EMR. Yes, they have a certified one, but they certainly aren’t paperless.

Functionality will become the watchword of EMR, not certification.

That’s some interesting projections. I remember one EMR vendor telling me that a large portion of their sales were to existing EMR users. In fact, I think they said that there favorite implementations were existing users that were switching to their EMR. I also love the observation of how much better an organization is at selecting an EMR the second time they do it.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • I asked a certified company to give me access to a ‘sandbox’ to test the product and they were unprepared to do that. It is common practice for other large types of software products such as HR management software. Ridiculous!

  • Cynthia,
    Many EMR vendors will give you access to a sandbox like install of their product as well. It’s pretty rough to do a good evaluation of their software if you can’t have access to it. Every EMR vendor should offer that option. Even if it’s through some remote access technology.

  • And “functionality” is so much more descriptive, desirable (and meaningful) than “meaningful use” — whatever that is.

  • Meaningful Use certification does not equal easy to use.

    Also, I tell clients to have the EHR sales person spend at least 3 days in the practice to see how they operate.

    If the salesperson is not willing…he isn’t that interested.

    Finally, NEVER leave the implementation stage until you are 100% happy or you never will be happy.

  • John,
    I’d have to disagree with that approach. Depends on the size of the practice in some respects.

    3 days from a salesperson is a lot to demand. If they give you a nice demo that you can spend time working on, then ask questions, then play some more. That’s better than hearing the sales guy pitch you.

    Also, you’ll never feel 100% happy with any software implementation. I agree that you need to reach a comfortable level before going forward. You also have to have a full understanding of what you’re getting into. However, the best key I know is to have a great relationship with the EHR vendor so that when the unseen appears you can get the help you need to solve the issue quickly.

  • Good point John. I am going to update my previous post and say 98% satisfaction. That is more realistic given that there are always little grumbles even with really good EMR systems.

  • I used to follow a certain vendor, lets call them Xyz, around and work with organizations they left high and dry (if there was any money left).

    I characterized my business as “Resurrecting Xyz Roadkill.”

  • Ed,
    What do you do now? Why did you stop? Want to share some of the stories from your experiences? I’m always looking for good guest bloggers and people can’t help but look at the car wrecks.

  • I am honored you would think I might have something to offer. I maintain a strong commitment to the confidentiality clauses and expectations of the folks who have brought me into confidence before so what I feel I can say is limited.

  • That’s too bad. Seems like you could maintain confidentiality while still sharing the stories and experiences so that others can avoid those issues.

    You didn’t answer however what you do now. Are you still doing EMR implementations and resurrecting roadkill?

Click here to post a comment