Guest Post: The Case for Modular EHR Over Complete EHR

Dr. Sullivan is a practicing cardiologist who joined DrFirst in 2004, just after completing his term as President of the Massachusetts Medical Society. He is known throughout the healthcare industry as the father of the Continuity of Care Record (“CCR”) and a leader on the future of healthcare technology. He is assisting DrFirst in ensuring that Rcopia continues to add the functionality necessary to maintain its leadership position both in electronic prescribing and in the channel of communication between various sectors of the healthcare community and the physician. Dr. Sullivan is active in organized medical groups at the state and national level, and is both a delegate to the AMA and the Chairperson of their Council on Medical Service as well as past Co-Chair of the Physicians EHR Consortium.

The buzz surrounding Electronic Health Records (EHR) is nothing short of constant.  The daunting task of selection, purchase and implementation is quite confusing, technical, and expensive, with many physicians, clinics and health systems uncertain of their needs and questioning how the technology is going to impact the way they practice medicine and their bottom line. It’s all about workflow and productivity.

More recently, Providers are faced with the intimidating task of deciding which kind of system to install. There are all inclusive systems, often referred to as fully paperless or standard EHRs and there are so called a la carte systems known as modular EHRs.

The Case for Modular

Modular EHR systems allow providers to take a stepping stone approach to health IT clinical documentation and order writing, by choosing the tools and functions which make the most sense in their practices and clinics; improving specialized workflow and efficiency.  Going the modular route can gradually ease the provider and the office staff into a more paperless environment without having to make a full and often-times difficult transition to a fully paperless workspace.

There is need for caution however. The sheer volume of modules available can make selecting appropriate ones an overwhelming task.  Not only do clinicians need to be wary of which modules they are choosing, but also what functions have been certified by an authorized organization.

By combining specific modular systems, it can become “qualified,” making the user eligible for the monetary reimbursements set forth by Title IV of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

At DrFirst, our Rcopia-MUTM has taken all of the guess work out of this process and is a completely certified Modular EHR that physicians can implement and start earning incentive money directly out-of-the-box.

The implementation of a complete EHR system can be confusing and time consuming.  Herein lays some distinct advantages of implementing a modular EHR.  Practices that have already implemented e-prescribing or registry modules may not need to relearn a different system, or move their data from one to another (as long as the current module is certified).

Providers who are considering going the modular route can check the certification status of their options at Certified Health IT Products List. The cost for a modular approach is often much less expensive and providers can select the modules from various vendors to meet their financial and practice-based needs.  Upon implementation, providers must show they’re using certified EHR technology in measureable ways to receive their incentive monies from the Federal Government.  With this very high ROI, many providers see the advantage of using the modular approach to postpone the decision process in selecting a complete EHR and yet at the same time earn Meaningful Use incentive money to put towards the cost of  the much more expensive system.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, doctors who have not adopted an EHR (either modular or complete) by 2015 will be penalized by Medicare — a 1% penalty to begin, then up to 3% within three years. Many providers are banking on the reimbursement that has been made available by the ARRA to help offset the initial costs.

What is your practice considering, complete EHR or modular? Do you see benefits of one over the other?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, 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,, 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.

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