Meaningful Use Provides Hospital EHR Vendor Lock In

One of the unintended consequences of meaningful use is that it provides a real hospital EHR vendor lock in. Certainly hospital EHR vendors have a pretty significant lock in even without meaningful use. Saying that switching hospital EHR software is a large project is a supreme understatement. However, if that wasn’t lock in enough, meaningful use makes it so that I can’t imagine a single hospital switching EHR software during the 5 year meaningful use cycle.

In a Meaningful Use Monday post on EMR and HIPAA, Lynn Scheps covered the details of Switching EHR software in the middle of meaningful use. So, yes it is technically possible and CMS has covered those that do end up switching EHR software. As the meaningful use stages progress I could even see this happening relatively frequently in the ambulatory EHR arena. I don’t see this happening at all in the hospital EHR arena.

You might ask why? I can’t imagine a hospital going to the effort of reconciling the details of meaningful use between two systems. Not to mention the implementation time for a hospital EHR system is so long that you’d likely lose out on a year of meaningful use money anyway. I don’t see any hospital CIO making this choice.

I made the argument in a previous post that much like ERP software, there will be an opportunity for some EHR software to displace the current vendor. I suggested this is most likely during the renewal or upgrade period. I still think this is sound reasoning and would be the time a hospital CIO could make the case for change. Although, I’m sure that meaningful use and the EHR incentive money will likely mean that many hospital CIOs take the upgrade cost on the chin instead of switching software.

Makes me wonder if EHR vendors will use this to their advantage when it’s time to deal with renewals and upgrades. I’d hope this wouldn’t be the case, but I won’t be surprised if it happens.

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.


  • Interesting. RazorInsights offers a benefit as they are SaaS and a subscription model. So by the nature of their technology delivery platform and pricing they are flexible and do not lock a hospital in. I can see where it would make sense for a hospital to “stick to a plan” and follow a roadmap to successful attestation and through the multiple stages of MU with a single vendor when possible, however a hospital has other options. Case in point; many hospitals are finding that their current vendor has a back log and can’t take them through the process quickly enough or just does not provide the level of service or technology to truly transition their care delivery model into the future. RazorInsights have successfully installed 7 out of 7 hospitals in 90 days or less on their ONC Certified EHR. They can quickly supply them with a solution not only for MU but one that provides a holistic view of the patient record and interdepartmental functionality, even beyond the four walls or their core hospital.

    Full disclosure – RazorInsights is a strategic partner of Hielix.

  • Chris,
    Does RazorInsights offer an export of all the data in the EHR if the hospital wants to switch EHR?

    Even if they do, it still is quite time consuming to switch EHR software. Even at 90 days if you have to attest to MU for the year, that will be an issue.

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