The Impact of Meaningful Use on EHR Development

I’ve been getting a really strong response to my post calling for EHR vendors to expand their definition of customer service. Although, the title doesn’t do the post justice since I also talk about the impact of meaningful use on EHR development. Many of the readers of EMR and HIPAA (and if you don’t read EMR and HIPAA you should go subscribe to the emails now) have highlighted some important points I wanted to share with a broader audience.

First, Peggy Salvatore provides this insight about the impact of billions of dollars of EHR incentive money:

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.

Brenden Holt, CEO of Holt Systems, offers this startling commentary on the EHR industry:

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.

Catherine Huddle offered this insight about MU not just derailing EHR development innovation, but also possibly making things worse:

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.

While there’s plenty to be pessimistic about what’s happened with EHR, I’m still optimistic that we’ve passed through the meaningful use waters and that the future will bring forth opportunity for EHR development innovation. I’m hopeful (although not 100% certain) that the people in Washington have seen the toll that meaningful use has paid on the industry and they’ll lighten the load so that EHR vendors can start listening to end users instead of regulators.

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.


  • What I find interesting about all this is that we decided the MU1 and the MU2 were not worth the time, energy and money.

    We are all pediatrics, so most of the MU was not applicable to us — like 98% of it.

    So we did AUI, and junked the rest. It is enormously freeing — we are innovating out the wazoo, to the point we have had a program written for us that tracks vaccine inventory, administration, and loans between inventories.

    It is always interesting to me when the government dangles money. People (administrators, IT, doctors, etc.) seem unable to count/do real ROI.

  • Sue Ann,
    I’ve often been astounded by the number of rationale people that lose common sense when “free” government money is dangling out in front of them.

  • I agree that the MU program acted as a necessary catalyst to E H R adoption. The basic concepts of the MU program are sounds, but the MU program is much too specific and broad with respect to the functionality required vs requiring a set of communication and exchange standards.
    The requirements should be focused on unlocking structured data, and demand open APIS to exchange this info based on s set of credentials. How the data is captured, where and when is not relevant and is a waste of time for the vendor to try to pass a set of tests that are arbitrary and not directly related to the above stated goal. Cost saving and innovation occur when the existing and newly captured clinical data is open and can be leveraged in new ways.

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