Specialty EHR Speaks that Specialty

I’ve long been a proponent of the role of specialty specific EHRs. In fact, at one point I suggested that a really great EHR company could be a roll up of the top specialty specific EHRs. I still think this would be an extraordinary company that could really compete with the top EHR vendors out there. For now, I haven’t seen anyone take that strategy.

There are just some really compelling reasons to focus your EHR on a specific specialty. In fact, what you find is that even the EHR vendor that claims to support every medical specialty is usually best fit for one or a couple specific specialties. Just ask for their client list and you’ll have a good idea of which specialty likes their system the most.

I was recently talking with a specialty EHR vendor and they made a good case for why specialists love working with them. The obvious one he didn’t mention was that the EHR functions are tailored to that specialty. Everyone sees and understands this.

What most people don’t think about is when they talk to the support or sales people at that company. This is particularly important with the support people. It’s a very different experience calling an EHR vendor call center that supports every medical specialty from one that supports only your specialty. They understand your specialties unique needs, terminology, and language. Plus, any reference clients they give you are going to be in your specialty so you can compare apples to apples.

Certainly there can be weaknesses in a specialty specific EHR. For example, if you’re in a large multi specialty organization you really can’t go with a specialty specific EHR. It’s just not going to happen. With so many practices being acquired by hospitals, this does put the specialty specific EHR at risk (depending on the specialty).

Another weakness is when you want to connect your EHR to an outside organization. Most of them can handle lab and prescription interfaces without too much pain. However, connecting to a hospital or HIE can often be a challenge or cost you a lot of money to make happen. Certainly the meaningful use interoperability requirements and HL7 standards help some. We’ll see if it’s enough or if the future of healthcare interoperability will need something more. For example, will specialty specific EHR be able to participate in CommonWell if it achieves its goals?

There’s a case to be made on both sides of the specialty specific EHR debate. As with most EHR decisions, you have to choose which things matter most to your clinic.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of 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.


  • Great article. Specialty EMR development is not easy when you take into consideration practice workflows, taking history and physician exam room documentation. It is completely different based on specialty. John makes a great point about the support personnel of the specialty EMR. What’s also extremely more important is how involved an actual physician (from that specialty) is involved in not only the development of the EMR, but also new product enhancements to address new and important features based on the physician feedback. Not one specialty EMR will be 100% perfect, it’s how frequent and quickly the vendor can address the needs of the physicians using the product in their practice.

  • Rick TMMI,
    That’s another good point. The software developers speak your specialty as well. So when you call asking for something specific for your specialty, then they don’t wonder why your specialty needs that and how that will impact all the other specialties on their EHR.

  • The development and deployment of specialty specific software is considered a success when the physicians use it to its full potential. Getting there requires a lot of moving parts with a highly skilled team on both sides of the equation. The implementation and the servicing of that software, is just as, if not more important than the development of it. Creating a team of individuals that understand an office’s or clinic’s operations and processes along with the billing requirements is what differentiates companies. Helping a physician determine the correct configuration for their organization is critical in the success of the software. Having a team of highly skilled and dedicated associates knowledgeable in the specialty is what makes it work.

    Collaborative knowledge sharing and process mapping is step one. Maintaining that knowledge through your field team and customer service team is step two. Working together with the office is the final step in helping to sustain success.

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