Specialty Specific EHR

I’ve long been a fan of the specialty specific EHR vendor. I’ve seen over and over again how much of a difference a specialty specific EHR can make in a practice. It’s a slippery slope when a specialty specific EHR starts entering other specialties. We’d like to think that every doctor is the same, but the variation in the needs of different specialties is rarely given the attention it deserves.

What scares me is that if we’re not careful, the specialty specific EHR vendor might be a dying breed. This isn’t because the specialty specific EHR vendors aren’t loved by their users more than the alternatives. Instead it’s the shift towards hospital owned medical practices that puts the specialty specific EHR in danger.

While hospital systems would love to support a best of breed approach to EHR software and allow each specialty to choose their own, I’ve never seen it actually happen. When push comes to shove, the hospital system starts rolling out an EHR vendor that “supports” every one of their specialties. It’s hard to blame an executive for making this choice. The logistics of supporting 20+ EHR vendors is onerous to put it lightly. The efficiency of one EHR vendor for a large multi specialty organization is just impossible to ignore. Long term however, I wonder if the downsides will cause major issues.

I should also declare that I don’t think a specialty specific EHR is always the best option. Some specialty specific EHR software aren’t very good either. In fact, I was recently thinking through the list of medical specialties and there were a lot of specialties where I didn’t know of a specialty specific EHR for them.

The one that struck me the most was that I didn’t know of an OB/GYN specific EHR. Is that really the case? I’ve seen hundreds of EHR and I couldn’t think of ever seeing an OB/GYN specific EHR. Maybe I’ve missed it, and if I have then I’d love to learn about one. I imagine the reason there isn’t one is because many of the larger All in One EHR vendors have put a decent focus on OB/GYN functionality. So, maybe no one wanted to compete with what was out there already? That’s speculation. What’s odd to me though is that OB/GYN seems like the perfect case where a specialty specific EHR could really benefit that specialty. They have some really unique needs and workflows. I’d think there would be massive competition around their specific challenges.

What I’ve also found is even the EHR vendors that are happy to sell to any specialty and probably have a few templates for that specialty (Yes, that’s how many EHR vendors “support” every specialty), even the All In One EHR vendors work better for certain specialties. This is often based on which specialties the EHR vendor had success with first. If 80 of your first 100 EHR sales are to cardiologists, then you can bet that your EHR is going to work better for cardiologists than it will for podiatrists.

With this in mind, let’s work as a community to aggregate a list of specialty specific EHR vendors. I’ll be generous and say that if an EHR vendor works with more than 10 EHR specialties, then it’s not a specialty specific EHR (5 is probably a better number). If you’re an EHR vendor and want to admit which specialties you work better for, then I’d love to hear that too.

Can we find a specialty specific EHR for every medical specialty? I look forward to seeing if we can in the comments.

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.

8 Comments

  • Our EMR is specific for Doctors of Chiropractic. The soap note templates, yes are 100% designed and built for a chiropractor’s clinical needs, but also in the way we group the coding for easy access, our bells and whistle features are built with the chiropractic patient needs and clinic staff in mind, our marketing integration with InfusionSoft comes with 10 Automated Campaigns specific for the chiropractor’s clinic, and the biggest is our ability to capture clinical data HIPPA compliantly to donate to a chiropractic university research team to give back to the chiropractic profession.

    We are certainly a specialty EMR! We have built our system to handle multi practitioners as many D.C.’s are now hiring a LMT, PT, NMD, and even MD’s in some areas.

  • IBM says that the body of medical knowledge doubles every five years and we can expect that window to shrink at an amazing pace. I suspect that there will be more and more types of medical specialists evolving to keep up with all that information in a compartmentalized way. I don’t think we figured out how to keep up with this trend in our medical schools yet. I know from experience that EHR vendors are not keeping up.

    John – you recently published a piece on how EPIC created an eco-system where applications could plug and play in their environment. You also seemed to feel that it would only really be open to applications that were created from within existing EPIC customer sites.

    Can you imagine if that type of eco-system was provided by all major EHR vendors and it was open to everyone? Think of the explosion in innovation that would occur if thousands of small entrepreneurial companies had the opportunity to focus on very specific specialized medical user interfaces with the prospect of selling them in app stores that reached all doctors no matter what EHR vendor they used as their medical repository.

    Even as medical professionals evolve to keep pace with the rapid introduction of new information and workflows, the old independent silo based development process that EHR vendors employ, even specialty specific ones, will fall further and further behind.

  • Thanks for sharing Nicole. I also love that you highlighted some of the specialty specific features that you offer. It highlights so well the difference.

    Jim,
    You and I are totally on the same page. The body of medical knowledge has surpassed the capacity of the human mind. So, we’ll need technology to support what we do. We’ve definitely not kept up with that trend.

    My post about Epic not being open to outside integrations applies just as well to specialty specific EHR vendors. In fact, I’ve consulted a few and said just that. I told them that they’d need to create a robust capability to be able to integrate with outside companies. If they didn’t, then they’ll be left behind.

    I agree that if we had an open environment where third parties could easily integrate with EHR vendors, then we’d see an amazing increase in innovation.

  • We have just launched Symplast, the first complete, 100% mobile medical software designed specifically for plastic surgeons and med spa providers. Founded by a group of plastic surgeons in 2013, Symplast is a secure, cloud-based solution that offers intuitive workflows specifically for the plastic surgery industry. Not only does our software offer the standard modules such as an EHR, Practice Management, and Patient Engagement; Symplast also offers features that are most important to plastic surgeons and med spa providers, such as Inventory Management/POS, Multimedia Management, Cosmetic Quotes, and automated Marketing.

    We believe a “one size fits all” model for medical software is not the most ideal solution for doctors, staff and patients. Our patent pending mobile architecture allows a doctor to run their entire practice from any smartphone, tablet, or PC.

  • John – I would be good to get some commentary here on FHIR and its promise in alleviating the need for a hospital system to switch all its practices to a single EMR (even two EPIC installations aren’t the same).

  • Anshuman,
    I don’t think FHIR will get us anywhere near the dream of a hospital system switching to a single EMR. It might connect 2 EHR in some ways, but even that will still be limited.

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