EHR Vendors Need to Expand Their Definition of Customer Service

Living in Las Vegas I likely have a skewed idea of what customer service means. In the tech world, we have Zappos headquarters in downtown Las Vegas. Most of you are likely familiar with Zappos unique approach to customer service. They really have taken customer service to the next level and created an entire company culture around the customer service they provide. The same could be said for the experience that the various casinos on the strip offer their customers. They do a really amazing job at most casinos providing an amazing customer service experience.

With this background, I find it really smart of Kareo to open an office in Las Vegas. Although, that’s not really the point of this post. Instead, I want to focus on the idea that most EHR vendors need expand their idea of customer service.

As I look at the world of EHR customer service I see so many organization lacking. Certainly we see examples of terrible EHR customer service that include calling into a call center in another country where the person doesn’t speak English and has no power to actually solve a user’s problems (Disclaimer: I don’t have a problem with call centers in other countries if they are well trained and can actually solve problems). Of course, the same thing can apply to a call center in the US who can’t solve the users’ actual problems. Both are terrible customer service and a problem in the industry. However, there’s a far more painful problem that I don’t think most EHR vendors consider a part of their customer service plan and 99% of EHR vendors have done terrible at this.

Adding new features and accommodating an EHR user’s feature request is just as much a part of the EHR customer service experience as the person who answers the phone. I can assure you that every EHR vendor out there would get rated an F the past few years when it comes to this form of EHR customer service. Why do I know this? I know this because every EHR vendor has been focused on meaningful use that they haven’t had the time to add any meaningful EHR user feature requests and features outside of meaningful use.

This isn’t EHR vendors’ fault. The end users have required it and EHR vendors have had to spend the time doing it. However, EHR customer service has suffered as a consequence. Don’t believe me. Look through all the EHR press releases that have been released over the past couple years. Find me the plethora of press releases that talk about the innovations that EHR vendors have created for their end users that aren’t related to meaningful use. I get the press releases and they’re MIA.

That’s not to say that EHR vendors have done nothing for end users. They’ve made some incremental progress on a few things, but meaningful use has zapped their development time. Stage 2 was even worse. I look forward to the new day where EHR vendors can focus on great customer service and EHR features and not just MU.

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.

5 Comments

  • Getting vendors to add features that current customers want, but cannot get is, of course, not limited to EHRs.

    Someone will object to adding something new because the current product is a cash cow and the new feature would not bring in new customers. It’s a shortsighted approach, but one I’ve run into more than once.

  • Almost 15 years ago, I wrote material for Intel (the computer chip company) based on research they were doing on physician workflow to make EHRs more usable. It was one of the early efforts to tackle this issue. I mention this to say that a lot of spade work has been done in this field but (in my humble opinion) government regulation has gotten in the way of software businesses trying to build electronic patient record products that work for the end users. Experience has shown time and again that customers will drive product improvements, and the same is true in the healthcare industry as in all others. The government has wasted tens of billions of dollars requiring systems be installed to meet timelines that were not realistic given the budgets and time available, or, to this point, to install products that were not really ready for prime time. Let the customers – in this case – the providers and the patients – drive development and you will end up with products that solve problems, not create them.

    Bottom line is that I agree with you.

  • To me it is more clear. EHR Vendors, large and small and all points in between are currently working on the support nightmare (R&D and Direct Support) of Meaningful Use. It is the same when CCHIT was coming out, and not much different then the 100’s, if not 1000’s, of current copy cat products, all in one way or another a copy of the master Logician (GE).

    Innovation does not bring in customers in the current environment. Government Adherence and more importantly relationships (Marketing and Sales) accomplish this. That is to say products need to be improved upon, but only to the extent of meeting the Government Regulatory Demands and the demands of the Large Organizations that are buying these things in bulk.

    Innovation is available, but more then likely will take some time, as will thinking of how we document patient care as a whole, which is antequated methodology.

    So as a CEO of a software company, one in the sea of many, I will say, innovation will happen when the phones get off the hook form highly demanding end users who want to make sure the MU is met and a Government Final Ruling that will get Government out of Development. Government is a terrible manufacture of innovation. One other major issue is that the end users don’t really want to pay for the innovation, if the EHR is working they are happy with the LOB application. That in and off itself is a issue, new features don’t translate to higher fees, the opposite is the case, less features in a Free Package can be much more attractive as both meet the basic LOB requirements.

    We are the US, as much as the rest of the world tries, inguinity is what makes us great, our leading export, but in this vertical it is all but dead.

  • As for MU, as an EHR vendor I would agree that it and related government programs such as PQRS and PCMH have significantly derailed most other product development. Not only was Stage 2 a development “hog” but it brought in required changes that are often unnatural in a practice’s workflow and overly complicated.

    MU has changed the goal from delivering what providers need to finding the best way to deliver MU to make it easiest for the providers and other staff – while still trying to make other improvements to the EHR. Unless the government repeals MU and the Medicare penalties the winning EHRs will be the ones that make MU as easy as possible.

    Call Centers are great but the need for customers to call a lot is usually a symptom or poor software design, improperly performing software (bugs) or training. And one could argue that well designed software should require little training.

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